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See also: -nasty and Nasty



From Middle English nasty, nasti, naxty, naxte (unclean, filthy), whence also Early Modern English nasky (nasty), of uncertain origin. Cognate with Scots nastie, nestie (dirty, filthy). Could be from or cognate with Old Norse *nask- +‎ -y or Low German nask (nasty) +‎ -y. Compare Swedish naskig, naskug (nasty, dirty, messy), Swedish and Danish nasket (dirty, foul, unpleasant).[1]

Alternative theories include:



nasty (comparative nastier, superlative nastiest)

  1. (now chiefly US) Dirty, filthy. [from 14th c.]
    • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan:
      In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.
    • 2006, Marie Fontaine, The Chronicles of my Ghetto Street Volume One, page 156:
      I really don't have any friends at school Mama Mia. They talk about me all the time. They say my hair's nappy and my clothes are nasty.
  2. Contemptible, unpleasant (of a person). [from 15th c.]
  3. Objectionable, unpleasant (of a thing); repellent, offensive. [from 16th c.]
  4. Indecent or offensive; obscene, lewd. [from 17th c.]
    • 1933, Dorothy L Sayers, Murder Must Advertise:
      He said to Mr. Tallboy he thought the headline was a bit hot. And Mr. Tallboy said he had a nasty mind.
    • 2009, Okera H, Be Your Priority, Not His Option, Mill City Press, published 2009, page 45:
      We want threesomes, blowjobs, and orgies. That's just the way it is. We want the good girl who's nasty in bed.
  5. Spiteful, unkind. [from 19th c.]
    • 2012 June 3, The Guardian:
      She had said: "I love the block button on Twitter. I don't know how people expect to send a nasty comment and not get blocked."
  6. (chiefly UK) Awkward, difficult to navigate; dangerous. [from 19th c.]
    • 2007 August 5, The Observer:
      There was a nasty period during the First World War when the family's allegiance was called into question - not least because one of the Schroders had been made a baron by the Kaiser.
  7. (chiefly UK) Grave or dangerous (of an accident, illness etc.). [from 19th c.]
    • 2012 March 2, James Ball, The Guardian:
      Moving into the middle ages, William the Conqueror managed to rout the English and rule the country, then see off numerous plots and assassination attempts, before his horse did for him in a nasty fall, killing him at 60.
  8. (slang, chiefly US) Formidable, terrific; wicked. [from 20th c.]
    • 2006, Noire [pseudonym], Thug-A-Licious: An Urban Erotic Tale, New York, N.Y.: One World/Ballantine Books, page 15:
      "Well," she grinned, looking hot and sexy. "They say you doing some real nasty shit in the NBA, but on the mic you a little too competitive. They say you a gaming niggah who likes to keep up all kinds of go-to-war gangsta friction between rappers. That shit must work for you though, huh? You stickin' all over the charts when other artists are failin' off. They rotating your cuts on the radio like mad too."

Derived terms[edit]



nasty (plural nasties)

  1. (informal) Something nasty.
    Processed foods are full of aspartame and other nasties.
    This video game involves flying through a maze zapping various nasties.
  2. (euphemistic, slang, preceded by "the") Sexual intercourse.
  3. A video nasty.
    • 1984, ThirdWay, volume 7, number 5, page 17:
      In this way, it is hoped that the nasties will be dealt with, and the remainder regularized.
    • 2014, mark Bernard, Selling the Splat Pack: The DVD Revolution and the American Horror Film:
      Jones evokes the nasties discursively to brand the Splat Pack as 'authentic outlaws'.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “nasty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary., citing the OED
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “nasty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary., citing Barnhart
  3. ^ R de Gorog, The Etymology of Nasty (1976, JStor)