sor·​did | \ˈsȯr-dəd \

Definition of sordid 

1 : marked by baseness or grossness : vile sordid motives

3 : meanly avaricious : covetous

4 : of a dull or muddy color

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Other Words from sordid

sordidly adverb
sordidness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sordid

mean, ignoble, abject, sordid mean being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity. mean suggests small-mindedness, ill temper, or cupidity. mean and petty satire ignoble suggests a loss or lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit. an ignoble scramble after material possessions abject may imply degradation, debasement, or servility. abject poverty sordid is stronger than all of these in stressing physical or spiritual degradation and abjectness. a sordid story of murder and revenge

Examples of sordid in a Sentence

And Vermes's story is also in part an international thriller, especially with the high-level goings-on around the Scrolls. The full sordid tale of spite, scholarly selfishness, and undisguised anti-Semitism, which kept access to the Dead Sea texts restricted for decades to a tiny cartel, unwinds in his pages. — Paula Fredriksen, New Republic, 15 Oct. 2001 Another reporter working to verify the book's charges ended up unmasking author James Hatfield's sordid past, revealing how little the publisher knew about its author … — Jennifer Greenstein, Brill's Content, February 2000 In fact, audiences now have become so blasé about accounts of celebrities' sordid personal lives that some stars are turning potential publicity nightmares into confessional coups. — Stephen Rebello, Vibe, May 1999 He shared the sordid details of his past. he managed to rise above the sordid streets upon which he grew up
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Recent Examples on the Web

Though bookstores were once among my favorite places to spend time, ever since my own book was published eight months ago, trips into bookstores have mutated into sordid affairs. Lauren Markham, Longreads, "For Me, With Love and Squalor," 7 June 2018 But the more sordid details of Hamilton’s death came out when Jenkins gave a jailhouse interview Wednesday. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "Ex-con was on cocaine, PCP when ‘voices’ told him to kill his 79-year-old mom, Texas cops say," 12 July 2018 USA TODAY Sports Had the sordid details not emerged, a casual observer would never guess that Jerry Richardson was relinquishing ownership of the Carolina Panthers in disgrace. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Carolina Panthers sale becomes official, but Jerry Richardson offers no apology," 9 July 2018 Over the last several months, and throughout the campaign, the GTTF horror show unfolded with the sordid details of cop corruption, and some of the cops involved in the robbery and fraud schemes were sentenced just this month. Dan Rodricks,, "Amid epic police corruption, Mosby eludes blame for surge in violence," 27 June 2018 The selection of OUTVETS’ Bryan Bishop would seem to signal the end of a sad and sordid history that at one point reached all the way to the Supreme Court. Nestor Ramos,, "Finally, a parade for all Southie to love. But what took so long?," 14 July 2018 His death — and the sordid revelations that followed — stunned Hollywood, his fans and his family. John D'anna, azcentral, "'Hogan's Heroes' star Bob Crane was murdered 40 years ago. Why does it still fascinate us?," 29 June 2018 While some of the story’s plot elements are sordid and unsavory, most of the violence occurs off-camera; Ramsay is more interested in the aftereffects of brutality, though even her grisliest tableaux have a kind of serrated elegance. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "You Were Never Really Here Is a Skillfully Crafted Thriller," 12 Apr. 2018 Hear the dish on the sordid and scandalous past of downtown and the historic Maple Park neighborhoods. Elaine Rewolinski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Fall and winter festivals, fairs and other events in Wisconsin," 13 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of sordid

1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sordid

Latin sordidus, from sordes dirt — more at swart

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Statistics for sordid

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sordid

The first known use of sordid was in 1606

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More Definitions for sordid



English Language Learners Definition of sordid

: very bad or dishonest

: very dirty


sor·​did | \ˈsȯr-dəd \

Kids Definition of sordid

1 : very dirty : filthy sordid surroundings

2 : of low moral quality a sordid life

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Comments on sordid

What made you want to look up sordid? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

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