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


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noun (1)

plural nappies
chiefly British


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noun (2)

plural nappies
: a rimless shallow open serving dish


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noun (3)

chiefly Scotland
: liquor
specifically : ale

Word History



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

First Known Use


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

Time Traveler
The first known use of nappy was circa 1550

Dictionary Entries Near nappy

Cite this Entry

“Nappy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

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