as in ugly
causing intense displeasure, disgust, or resentment a nasty horror movie that was so violent that I could hardly watch the opening scenes

Synonyms & Similar Words

Antonyms & Near Antonyms

as in obscene
depicting or referring to sexual matters in a way that is unacceptable in polite society nasty magazines that are not sold to minors

Synonyms & Similar Words

Antonyms & Near Antonyms


Synonym Chooser

How does the adjective nasty differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of nasty are dirty, filthy, foul, and squalid. While all these words mean "conspicuously unclean or impure," nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness; in practice, however, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable. When used figuratively, nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness.

it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat
had a nasty fall
his answer gave her a nasty shock
a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor

When is dirty a more appropriate choice than nasty?

The words dirty and nasty are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it or, figuratively, stresses meanness or despicableness.

a dirty littered street
don't ask me to do your dirty work

When could filthy be used to replace nasty?

Although the words filthy and nasty have much in common, filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears. Figuratively, it can also describe disgusting obscenity.

a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy
filthy street language

When would foul be a good substitute for nasty?

While in some cases nearly identical to nasty, foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking; it can also describe, for example, loathsome behavior.

a foul-smelling open sewer
a foul story of lust and greed

When might squalid be a better fit than nasty?

In some situations, the words squalid and nasty are roughly equivalent. However, squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect. Distinctively, its figurative use implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness.

squalid slums
engaged in a series of squalid affairs

Thesaurus Entries Near nasty

Cite this Entry

“Nasty.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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