nas·​ty ˈna-stē How to pronounce nasty (audio)
nastier; nastiest
: disgustingly filthy
nasty living conditions
: physically repugnant
a nasty taste
: indecent, obscene
nasty language
: mean, tawdry
living a cheap and nasty lifeG. B. Shaw
: extremely hazardous (see hazardous sense 1) or harmful
a nasty undertow
: causing severe pain or suffering
a nasty wound
a nasty fall
: sharply unpleasant : disagreeable
nasty weather
: difficult to understand or deal with
a nasty problem
a nasty curveball
: psychologically unsettling : trying
a nasty fear that she was lost
: lacking in courtesy or sportsmanship
a nasty trick
nastily adverb
nastiness noun
nasty noun
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of nasty in a Sentence

She has a nasty habit of biting her fingernails. The medicine left a nasty taste in my mouth. That nasty old man yelled at me just for stepping on his lawn! He sent a nasty letter to the company. She's got quite a nasty temper. He said lots of downright nasty things about her. She called him a few nasty names and left. See More
Recent Examples on the Web If a nasty tooth infection progresses to the point where pus is accumulating near your gums, for instance, extraction is pretty much the only solution to prevent it from getting worse, Dr. Cu says. Jenna Ryu, SELF, 19 Sep. 2023 The Twits follows the nasty Mr. and Mrs. Twit, who also own and operate a disgusting and dangerous amusement park, Twitlandia. Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Sep. 2023 In the first half, the 34-year-old striker took a nasty fall after a hard challenge in the box. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Sep. 2023 It’s been a nasty election cycle this year in Worcester, where debates around homelessness, crisis-pregnancy centers, and the governmental system of the city are at the core of heated arguments, further inflamed by the current national mood of superheated politics. Sean Cotter,, 17 Sep. 2023 There’s the oddly absolutist idea that because the first guy Sasha actually kills is a nasty fellow, the moral injunction against murdering him is lifted. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 16 Sep. 2023 If automakers fail to reach an agreement with the UAW, a nasty domino run will begin inside the auto supply chain over the next few weeks and months. WIRED, 15 Sep. 2023 Some people hear the birth of rock and roll in the nasty backbeat on records that Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells, and Little Walter, among others, made in Chicago for Chess Records, the storied indie label, in the nineteen-fifties. John Seabrook, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 There’s a feeling of frenzied imprisonment, a constant of her best work, as though ninety-five per cent of the composition has been frozen in some nasty, amber-like substance, and soon the other five will be, too. Jackson Arn, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nasty.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of nasty was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near nasty

Cite this Entry

“Nasty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


nas·​ty ˈnas-tē How to pronounce nasty (audio)
nastier; nastiest
: very dirty or foul : filthy
: morally disgusting or degrading
: disagreeable sense 1, unpleasant
nasty weather
: spiteful, ill-natured
a nasty temper
a nasty trick
: harmful, dangerous
a nasty fall on the ice
nastily adverb
nastiness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on nasty

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