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A muddy farm road (etymology 1, adjective sense 1).

Etymology 1[edit]

The adjective is derived from Late Middle English muddi, moddy, muddy (covered with or full of mud, muddy),[1] from mud, mudde (mud; turbid water)[2] + -i (suffix forming adjectives).[3] Mud, mudde is possibly borrowed from Middle Dutch modde, and/or Middle Low German modde, mudde, from Proto-Germanic *mud-, *mudra- (mud), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *mū-, *mew- (moist). The English word is analysable as mud +‎ -y (suffix meaning ‘having the quality of’ forming adjectives).[4] Doublet of muddle.

The verb is derived from the adjective.[5]


muddy (comparative muddier, superlative muddiest)

  1. Covered or splashed with, or full of, mud (wet soil).
    Synonym: (Scotland) clatchy
    He slogged across the muddy field.
    Take off your muddy boots before you come inside.
    • 1606, Charles Steuens [i.e., Charles Estienne], John Liebault [i.e., Jean Liébault], “The Seating and Situating of the Countrie Farme, with Other His Appurtinances”, in Richard Surflet, transl., Maison Rustique, or The Countrey Farme: [], London: [] Arnold Hatfield for Iohn Norton and Iohn Bill, →OCLC, book I, page 7:
      It [the cistern] muſt be firmely and cloſely paued vvith clay and mortar, and after dravvne ouer and floored vvith the ſame mortar, to the ende that the vvater be not made muddy or taſt of the earth: []
    • 1616, Charles Steuens [i.e., Charles Estienne], John Liebault [i.e., Jean Liébault]; Gervase Markham, “Of the Sorts of Fishes wherewith Pooles, Ponds, and Ditches, are to be Furnished”, in Richard Surflet, transl., Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme. [], new edition, London: [] Adam Jslip for John Bill, →OCLC, book IV (That There are Two Sorts of Medowes), page 508:
      [T]he augure, [] is a ſharpe inſtrument of yron made thinne vvith many ſharpe teeth, and ſo ſtriken into holes or muddie banks, vvhere they vvill many times catch a verie great aboundance of Eeles: []
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Fourth Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 143, lines 686–687:
      All theſe Cocytus bounds vvith ſqualid Reeds, / VVith Muddy Ditches, and vvith deadly VVeeds: []
    • 1705, J[oseph] Addison, “From Rome to Naples”, in Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, &c. in the Years 1701, 1702, 1703, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 188:
      A long Canal the muddy Fenn divides, / And vvith a clear unſully'd Current glides; []
      Translating a passage by Lucan.
    • 1952 September 19, John Steinbeck, chapter 15, in East of Eden, Chicago, Ill.: Sears Readers Club, published 2002, →ISBN, section 3, page 170:
      I came out of the army like dragging myself muddy out of a swamp. I wandered for a long time before going home to a remembered place I did not love.
    • 2021, Claire Maxted, “Quick Start”, in The Ultimate Trail Running Handbook: Get Fit, Confident and Skilled Up to Go from 5K to 50K, London: Bloomsbury Sport, Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 25:
      When faced with a rockier or muddier section, look ahead for the easiest way across. This might involve hopping from one rock to another, or looking for flat sections or patches of vegetation that might be grippier.
  2. Of water or some other liquid: containing mud or (by extension) other sediment in suspension; cloudy, turbid.
    The previously limpid water was now muddy as a result of the struggle between the alligator and the wild boar.
    • 1610, Gervase Markham, “Of the Sixe Things Not Naturall, How They Profit, and How They Hurt”, in Markhams Maister-peece. Contayning All Knowledge Belonging to the Smith, Farrier, or Horse-leech, Touching the Curing of All Diseases in Horses: [], 5th edition, London: [] Nicholas and Iohn Okes, [], published 1636, →OCLC, 1st book (Containing All Cures Physicall, []), page 21:
      [A]s for his vvater [i.e., the horse's urine], the more pure, it is the better; and the more muddy, thicke, and pleaſant,[sic – meaning unpleasant?] ſo much the more unhealthfull.
    • a. 1662 (date written), Thomas Fuller, “Northampton-shire”, in The History of the Worthies of England, London: [] J[ohn] G[rismond,] W[illiam] L[eybourne] and W[illiam] G[odbid], published 1662, →OCLC, page 291:
      [T]he moſt generous VVines are the moſt muddy, before they are fine.
    • 1705, J[oseph] Addison, “Pavia, Milan, &c.”, in Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, &c. in the Years 1701, 1702, 1703, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 26:
      [I]n Italy one ſeldom ſees a River that is extreamly bright and limpid, moſt of 'em falling dovvn from the Mountains, that make their VVaters very troubled and muddy, []
  3. Of or relating to mud; also, having the characteristics of mud, especially in colour or taste.
  4. (euphemistic) Soiled with feces.
  5. (archaic) Of an animal or plant: growing or living in mud.
    • 1818 (date written), Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Mazenghi”, in Mary W[ollstonecraft] Shelley, editor, Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, London: [] [C. H. Reynell] for John and Henry L[eigh] Hunt, [], published 1824, →OCLC, stanza 9, page 259:
      There is a point of strand / Near Vada's tower and town; and on one side / The treacherous marsh divides it from the land, / Shadowed by pine and ilex forests wide, / And on the other creeps eternally, / Through muddy weeds, the shallow, sullen sea.
  6. (figuratively)
    1. Dirty, filthy.
    2. Not clear.
      • c. 1595–1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, A Midsommer Nights Dreame. [] (First Quarto), London: [] [Richard Bradock] for Thomas Fisher, [], published 1600, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii]:
        To vvhat, my loue, ſhall I compare thine eyne? / Chriſtall is muddy.
      • 1841, R[alph] W[aldo] Emerson, “Essay IV. Spiritual Laws.”, in Essays, Boston, Mass.: James Munroe and Company, →OCLC, page 128:
        Faces never lie, it is said. [] When a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, his eye is as clear as the heavens. When he has base ends, and speaks falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes asquint.
      • 2008 December, “Assessment, Grading, and Cheating”, in Classroom Management (Idea Book Series; Information Collection and Exchange Publication; no. M0088), Washington, D.C.: Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support, Information Collection and Exchange, Peace Corps, published March 2009, →OCLC, page 99:
        At the end of a class or a lecture, ask students to write for one or two minutes about the "muddiest point" of the lesson (the part of the lesson that is still not understood clearly).
      • 2019, David Egan, “Wittgenstein’s Pursuit of Authenticity in Philosophy”, in The Pursuit of an Authentic Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and the Everyday, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, part III (The Pursuit of an Authentic Philosophy), page 222:
        [P]hilosophers often press thought experiments into service as a way of addressing a given philosophical problem by analogy: [] Thomson thinks the question of whether we are permitted to unplug ourselves from an unconscious violinist to whom we have been unwittingly attached admits of a fairly clear answer, and wants to bring that clarity to the muddier issue of abortion.
      1. Of a colour: not bright: dirty, dull.
        Synonyms: faint, wan; see also Thesaurus:dim
      2. Of an image: blurry or dim.
      3. Of light: cloudy, opaque.
      4. Of sound (especially during performance, recording, or playback): indistinct, muffled.
        The television picture is decent, but the sound is muddy.
      5. Of speech, thinking, or writing: ambiguous or vague; or confused, incoherent, or mixed-up; also, poorly expressed.
        Synonym: muddled
      6. (chiefly literary, poetic) Of the air: not fresh; impure, polluted.
        • 1791, Oliver Goldsmith, “Of Winds, Irregular and Regular”, in An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature. [], new edition, volume I, London: [] F[rancis] Wingrave, successor to Mr. [John] Nourse, [], →OCLC, page 333:
          Our ovvn muddy atmoſphere, that vvraps us round in obſcurity, though it fails to gild our proſpects vvith ſun-ſhine, or our groves vvith fruitage, nevertheleſs anſvvers the calls of industry.
    3. Originally, morally or religiously wrong; corrupt, sinful; now, morally or legally dubious; shady, sketchy.
      • 1653, Henry More, “Conjectura Cabbalistica. Or, A Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Mind of Moses, in the Three First Chapters of Genesis, According to a Threefold Cabbala: Viz. Literal, Philosophical, Mystical, or, Divinely Moral. The Moral Cabbala. Chapter I.”, in A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings of Dr Henry More [], London: [] James Flesher for William Morden, [], published 1662, →OCLC, , paragraph 6, page 102:
        [B]y the vvill of God the Heavenly Principle (though it be in it ſelf inviſible and undiſcernible) in due time becomes a Spirit of ſavoury and affectionate diſcernment betvvixt the evil and the good; betvvixt the pure vvaters that flovv from the holy Spirit, and the muddy and tumultuous ſuggeſtions of the Fleſh.
      • 1878 June–October, Robert Louis Stevenson, “[The Rajah’s Diamond.] Story of the House with the Green Blinds.”, in New Arabian Nights [], volume I, London: Chatto & Windus, [], published 1882, →OCLC, page 215:
        Business is business; and your business, let me remind you, is too muddy for such airs.
      • 1928, D[avid] H[erbert] Lawrence, chapter XVIII, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, authorized British edition, London: Martin Secker [], published February 1932 (May 1932 printing), →OCLC, page 284:
        I have been to the depths of the muddy lives of the Bertha Couttses of this world, and when, released from the current of gossip, I slowly rise to the surface again, I look at the daylight in wonder that it ever should be.
    4. (archaic) Of a person or their facial expression: angry, sad, or sulky.
    5. (obsolete) Slightly drunk; tipsy.
      Synonyms: fuddled, muddled; see also Thesaurus:drunk
Derived terms[edit]


muddy (third-person singular simple present muddies, present participle muddying, simple past and past participle muddied)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To cover or splash (someone or something) with mud.
      If you muddy your shoes don’t wear them inside.
      • 1908, E[dward] M[organ] Forster, “Twelfth Chapter”, in A Room with a View, London: Edward Arnold, →OCLC, part II, page 200:
        [T]hey splashed George. He was quiet: they feared they had offended him. Then all the forces of youth burst out. He smiled, flung himself at them, splashed them, ducked them, kicked them, muddied them, and drove them out of the pool.
    2. To make (water or some other liquid) cloudy or turbid by stirring up mud or other sediment.
    3. (figuratively)
      1. To confuse (a person or their thinking); to muddle.
        The discussion only muddied their understanding of the subject.
      2. To damage (a person or their reputation); to sully, to tarnish.
      3. To make (a colour) dirty, dull, or muted.
        The addition of the second batch of paint muddied the bright colours to a dull and washed look.
      4. To make (a matter, etc.) more complicated or unclear; to make a mess of (something).
        • 2014 July 1, Steve Rose, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: a primate scream – first look review”, in Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 27 November 2022:
          As the humans establish tentative bonds with their evolutionary cousins, the inter-species waters start to muddy.
        • 2019 April 28, Alex McLevy, “Game Of Thrones Suffers the Fog of War in the Battle against the Dead (Newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[2], archived from the original on 31 May 2021:
          It may have been effective at conveying the confusion of the situation, but it didn't make for terribly thrilling scenes. The blurry camerawork (quite literally at times) and rapid-fire editing meant that exchanges of blows that should have been viscerally thrilling were often muddied, good for capturing the mood but not much fun to watch.
      5. To make (something) impure; to contaminate.
      6. (obsolete) To cause or permit (someone or something) to become stuck in mud; to mire.
  2. (intransitive)
    1. (also figuratively) Sometimes followed by up: to become covered or splashed with mud; to become dirty or soiled.
    2. Of water or some other liquid: to become cloudy or turbid.
      • 1846, Walter Savage Landor, “Citation and Examination of William Shakespeare, Euseby Treen, Joseph Carnaby, and Silas Gough, Clerk, before the Worshipful Sir Thomas Lucy, Knight, Touching Deer-stealing on the 19th Day of September, in the Year of Grace 1582”, in The Works of Walter Savage Landor. [], volume II, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 276, column 1:
        Malt before hops, the world over, or the beer muddies.
    3. (figuratively) To become contaminated or impure.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

mud crab or mangrove crab (Scylla serrata) is informally called a muddy in Australia, especially in Queensland.

From mud (crab) +‎ -y (diminutive suffix).[6]


muddy (plural muddies)

  1. (Australia (chiefly Queensland), informal) The edible mud crab or mangrove crab (Scylla serrata).


  1. ^ muddī, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ mud(de, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ -ī̆, suf.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ muddy, adj. and n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2022; “muddy, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ muddy, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “muddy, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  6. ^ muddy, n.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022.

Further reading[edit]