adjective nas·ty \ ˈna-stē \
|Updated on: 18 Aug 2018

Definition of nasty

nastier; nastiest
1 a : disgustingly filthy
  • nasty living conditions
b : physically repugnant
  • a nasty taste
2 : indecent, obscene
  • nasty language
3 : mean, tawdry
  • living a cheap and nasty life
  • —G. B. Shaw
4 a : extremely hazardous (see hazardous 2) or harmful
  • a nasty undertow
b : causing severe pain or suffering
  • a nasty wound
  • a nasty fall
c : sharply unpleasant : disagreeable
  • nasty weather
5 a : difficult to understand or deal with
  • a nasty problem
  • a nasty curveball
b : psychologically unsettling : trying
  • a nasty fear that she was lost
6 : lacking in courtesy or sportsmanship
  • a nasty trick


play \ˈna-stə-lē\ adverb


play \ˈna-stē-nəs\ noun



Examples of nasty in a Sentence

  1. She has a nasty habit of biting her fingernails.

  2. The medicine left a nasty taste in my mouth.

  3. That nasty old man yelled at me just for stepping on his lawn!

  4. He sent a nasty letter to the company.

  5. She's got quite a nasty temper.

  6. He said lots of downright nasty things about her.

  7. She called him a few nasty names and left.

Recent Examples of nasty from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nasty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of nasty

Middle English

Synonym Discussion of nasty

dirty, filthy, foul, nasty, squalid mean conspicuously unclean or impure. dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it.
    • a dirty littered street
filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears.
    • a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy
foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking.
    • a foul-smelling open sewer
nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness.
    • it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat
In practice, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable.
    • had a nasty fall
    • his answer gave her a nasty shock
squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect.
    • squalid slums
All these terms are also applicable to moral uncleanness or baseness or obscenity. dirty then stresses meanness or despicableness
    • don't ask me to do your dirty work
, while filthy and foul describe disgusting obscenity or loathsome behavior
    • filthy street language
    • a foul story of lust and greed
, and nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness.
    • a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor
Distinctively, squalid implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness.
    • engaged in a series of squalid affairs

NASTY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of nasty for English Language Learners

  • : very unpleasant to see, smell, taste, etc.

  • : indecent and offensive

  • : unpleasant and unkind

NASTY Defined for Kids


adjective nas·ty \ ˈna-stē \

Definition of nasty for Students

nastier; nastiest
1 : 2mean 1
  • He has a nasty disposition.
2 : very unpleasant
  • nasty weather
  • a nasty taste
3 : very serious : harmful
  • I had a nasty fall on the ice.
4 : very dirty : filthy
5 : indecent
  • nasty jokes


\ˈna-stə-lē\ adverb


\ˈna-stē-nəs\ noun

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