nap·​py | \ ˈna-pē How to pronounce nappy (audio) \
nappier; nappiest

Definition of nappy

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 of hair, informal + sometimes offensive : naturally coarse and tightly coiled : kinky sense 1 He looks hip and relaxed in jeans and a floppy salt-and-pepper sweater, a soul patch beneath his lower lip, his hair cropped short and stylishly nappy.— Jeffrey Tayler A Nova Scotia court martial heard contrasting views from witnesses Monday on whether a white reservist's use of the word "nappy" to describe a black co-worker's hair was intended as a racial slur.The Calgary Herald In "Nappy Hair," the 51-year-old Herron, who is black, tells how her uncle taught her to celebrate her hair—and her culture. The controversy caught her by surprise, since Herron does not regard the word "nappy," or frizzy, as negative.— Lisa Meyer
2 : having a hairy, fuzzy, or downy surface Press velvets, velours, corduroy, or other nappy fabrics on the wrong side; don't let the iron rest on the fabric.Consumer Reports Thrift and resale shops are no longer a haven for nappy sweaters and faded blue jeans.— Natalie Boehme


noun (1)
plural nappies

Definition of nappy (Entry 2 of 4)

chiefly British


noun (2)
plural nappies

Definition of nappy (Entry 3 of 4)

: a rimless shallow open serving dish


noun (3)

Definition of nappy (Entry 4 of 4)

chiefly Scotland
: liquor specifically : ale

First Known Use of nappy


1885, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (1)

1927, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1731, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

circa 1550, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nappy


nap entry 3

Noun (1)

napkin + -y entry 4

Noun (2)

English dialect nap bowl, from Middle English, from Old English hnǣpp; akin to Old High German hnapf bowl

Noun (3)

obsolete nappy, adjective, foaming

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Time Traveler for nappy

Time Traveler

The first known use of nappy was circa 1550

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Dictionary Entries Near nappy

napping hammer


nappy rash

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Cite this Entry

“Nappy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of nappy

: having many tight bends or curls

More from Merriam-Webster on nappy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nappy

Nglish: Translation of nappy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nappy for Arabic Speakers


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