squal·​id ˈskwä-ləd How to pronounce squalid (audio)
: marked by filthiness and degradation from neglect or poverty
: sordid
squalidly adverb
squalidness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for squalid

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 squalid in a Sentence

The family lived in squalid conditions.
Recent Examples on the Web And the trust’s 1,500 tenants have faced yet another delay in improving their squalid living conditions. Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times, 11 July 2023 Workers at these farms often live in squalid conditions and use open latrines, and they are sometimes cheated out of their pay. Andrew Selsky, BostonGlobe.com, 9 June 2023 Police reported the children, ages 4 to 16, lived in squalid conditions in a three-bedroom mobile home in Sellersville, about 38 miles north of Philadelphia. Jo Ciavaglia, USA TODAY, 26 May 2023 Nearly a million Rohingya Muslims live in squalid camps in the Bangladeshi border district of Cox’s Bazar. Reuters, CNN, 7 May 2023 For the first time, the public at home saw the reality of war—dead men sprawled across the road, trees shorn of their leaves and branches from a hail of bullets, amputations being performed in squalid field hospitals. Benjamin Wolff, Forbes, 31 Dec. 2022 Before Adams’ appointment, as the trust’s finances collapsed, many tenants lived in fear amid squalid conditions. Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2023 Many people have been living here for months in squalid conditions. ABC News, 14 May 2023 The proposition came in the wake of a Chronicle investigation into squalid living conditions at single-room occupancy hotels where the department houses formerly homeless people. J.d. Morris, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'squalid.' 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 squalidus rough, dirty, from squalēre to be covered with scales or dirt, from squalus dirty; perhaps akin to Latin squama scale

First Known Use

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of squalid was in 1596

Dictionary Entries Near squalid

Cite this Entry

“Squalid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/squalid. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


squal·​id ˈskwäl-əd How to pronounce squalid (audio)
: filthy or degraded as a result of neglect or the lack of money
squalidly adverb
squalidness noun
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