sor·​did ˈsȯr-dəd How to pronounce sordid (audio)
: marked by baseness or grossness : vile
sordid motives
: meanly avaricious : covetous
: of a dull or muddy color
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
Recent Examples on the Web Democrats have a sordid history of playing the race card for or against groups based on prevailing political winds. WSJ, 6 Nov. 2023 For her groundbreaking presentation at the 2022 Venice Biennale, American sculptor Simone Leigh took a page from history, borrowing a theme from the sordid 1931 Paris Colonial Expo. Kriston Capps, Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2023 Though he’s never found much acclaim on this side of the border, Ripstein occupies a vaunted status at home, entrenched between the sordid and the sublime. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep. 2023 The indictment itself concludes with a description of one of many moments when Trump might have, however belatedly, pulled the plug on the whole sordid affair. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 2 Aug. 2023 The singer insisted his song had nothing to do with race and expressed outrage over the ties critics have drawn between it and our sordid, racist past. TIME, 11 Oct. 2023 The third-term senator was indicted last week on bribery charges in what prosecutors alleged was a sordid scheme that included abusing his power as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to benefit Egypt. Annie Karni, New York Times, 26 Sep. 2023 Between wanderlust and self-revelation, Nikki confronts unexpected twists and turns, from launching the first feminist travel publication, Unearth Women, to investigating a mysterious family murder in Colombia, to navigating new love and sordid affairs. Sarah Yang, Sunset Magazine, 29 Sep. 2023 Wolff paints the post-Ailes, post-Dominion, and post-Tucker Fox as a rudderless behemoth, led by sheepish heirs who loathe the sordid business but are chained to the money pipeline by greed. Nina Burleigh, The New Republic, 26 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin sordidus, from sordes dirt — more at swart

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sordid was in 1606

Dictionary Entries Near sordid

Cite this Entry

“Sordid.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


sor·​did ˈsȯrd-əd How to pronounce sordid (audio)
: very dirty : filthy
sordid surroundings
: vile sense 1a
a sordid life
: meanly greedy : covetous
sordidly adverb
sordidness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on sordid

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!