scraw·​ny ˈskrȯ-nē How to pronounce scrawny (audio)
scrawnier; scrawniest
: exceptionally thin and slight or meager in body or size
scrawny scrub cattle
scrawniness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for scrawny

lean, spare, lank, lanky, gaunt, rawboned, scrawny, skinny mean thin because of an absence of excess flesh.

lean stresses lack of fat and of curving contours.

a lean racehorse

spare suggests leanness from abstemious living or constant exercise.

the gymnast's spare figure

lank implies tallness as well as leanness.

the lank legs of the heron

lanky suggests awkwardness and loose-jointedness as well as thinness.

a lanky youth, all arms and legs

gaunt implies marked thinness or emaciation as from overwork or suffering.

a prisoner's gaunt face

rawboned suggests a large ungainly build without implying undernourishment.

a rawboned farmer

scrawny and skinny imply an extreme leanness that suggests deficient strength and vitality.

a scrawny chicken
skinny street urchins

Example Sentences

The only plants in their yard were a couple of scrawny bushes.
Recent Examples on the Web The scrawny 5-foot-8 project evolved into a sturdy 6-foot-3 playmaker, replete with professional-wrestler hair and a chip on his shoulder that’s never gone away. Tim Bielik, cleveland, 9 Oct. 2022 Some nights Zarmeena Sardar dreams that Lina, looking scrawny, her skin darkened, calls out to her pleading for help. Zabihullah Ghazi,, 22 Sep. 2022 Before a super serum gave him a superhero stature and the muscles to carry the world on his shoulders, Steve Rogers was a scrawny kid from Brooklyn who was far from a Casanova. David Betancourt, Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2022 One of them was Helene Weiss, then a scrawny 8-year-old whom Ms. Geulen took to a farm owned by a Catholic family, using the pretense that Helene, too, was Catholic but needed fresh air and country life to regain her health. New York Times, 7 June 2022 At baseball practice, a scrawny kid with a vest and a gun stood sentinel. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 26 Aug. 2022 The paratroopers lined up the recruits — mostly older men with beer bellies, or scrawny teens — and cajoled the Iraqis through a battery of jumping jacks, push-ups, and crunches. Kevin Maurer, Rolling Stone, 28 Aug. 2022 Learn more about the largest animal in the world below, along with its scrawny counterpart — the smallest animal in the world. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2022 Every bite sent delicious bolts of grease sizzling around my scrawny body. Tim Neville, Outside Online, 21 July 2022 See More

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

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1833, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scrawny was in 1833

Dictionary Entries Near scrawny

Cite this Entry

“Scrawny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



scraw·​ny ˈskrȯ-nē How to pronounce scrawny (audio)
scrawnier; scrawniest
: poorly nourished : skinny
scrawniness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on scrawny

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.