From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



This child’s eyelashes are nitty (sense 1) – they have been infested with nits, the eggs of the head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis)

Etymology 1[edit]

From nit +‎ -y. The “foolish, inane” adjective sense is from nit (fool, nitwit), possibly under the influence of nutty (crazy, mad).[1]

The origin of the noun sense (“dope fiend, druggie”) is unknown, but could refer to a person who is under the influence of drugs to the extent that he or she is careless about personal hygiene and unkempt. Compare the verb nit (to be a nitty).


nitty (comparative nittier or more nitty, superlative nittiest or most nitty)

  1. (archaic, also figuratively) Full of nits.
    Synonym: lousy
    • a. 1588, “The Trickes of the Fayry Called Pach”, in Robin Good-Fellovv, His Mad Prankes, and Merry Iests: [], London: Printed [by Miles Flesher?] for F[rancis] Groue [], published 1628, →OCLC; republished in J[ohn] Payne Collier, editor, Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. [], volume II, London: Printed for the Percy Society, [], 1840, →OCLC, page 41:
      About mid-night do I walke, and for the trickes I play they call me Pach. When I find a slut asleepe, I smuch her face if it be cleane; but if it be durty, I wash it in the next pisse-pot that I can finde: the balls I use to wash such sluts withal is a sows pancake or a pilgrimes salve. Those that I find with their heads nitty and scabby, for want of combing, I am their barbers, and cut their hayre as close as an apes tayle; or else clap so much pitch on it, that they must cut it off themselves to their great shame.
    • 1601, Ben Jonson, Poetaster or The Arraignment: [], London: [] [R. Bradock] for M[atthew] L[ownes] [], published 1602, →OCLC, Act III:
      Tuc[ca]. [] Can thy Author doe it impudently enough? / Hiſt[rio]. O, I warrant you, Captaine: and ſpitefully inough too; he ha's one of the moſt ouerflowing villanous wits, in Rome. He will ſlander any man that breathes; If he diſguſt him. / Tucca. I'le know the poor, egregious, nitty Raſcall; and he haue ſuch commendable Qualities, I'le cheriſh him: []
    • c. 1620, An Excellent New Medley: To the Tune of the Spanish Pauin, [London]: [s.n.], →OCLC; republished as Charles Hindley, editor, The Roxburghe Ballads, volume I, London: Reeves and Turner, [], 1873, →OCLC, page 79:
      Rich people haue the world at will, / Trades fade, but Lawiers flourish still, / Iacke would be married unto Gyll; / but care will kill a Cat. / Are you there, Sirrah, with your beares? / A Barbers shop with the nittie haires, / Doll, Phillis hath lost both her eares / for coozning.
    • 1622, Phillip Messenger [i.e., Philip Massinger], Thomas Deker [i.e., Thomas Dekker], The Virgin Martir: A Tragedie. [], London: Printed by B[ernard] A[lsop] for Thomas Jones, →OCLC; republished in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker [] in Four Volumes, volume IV, London: John Pearson [], 1873, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii], page 52:
      Sure thy father was ſome botcher, and thy hungry tongue bit off theſe ſhreds of complaints, to patch up the elbows of thy nitty eloquence.
    • 1631, [Richard Brathwait], “A Ruffian”, in Whimzies: Or, a Nevv Cast of Characters, London: Imprinted by F[elix] K[ingston] and are to be sold by Ambrose Rithirdon [], →OCLC; republished as James O[rchard] Halliwell, editor, The Whimzies; or A New Cast of Characters: From the Original Edition, Published in 1631, London: Printed by Thomas Richards, [], 1859, →OCLC, pages 83–84:
      Next night, therefore, these nittie haxters intend with strong hand to breake his glass-window's, or at dead-time of night to pull downe his signe: and so ends their faire quarrel.
    • 1907 November, J. F. M., “Questions and Answers [Setting Cotton Cards]”, in Textile World Record: Combining The Textile World and Textile Record, volume 33 (New Series), number 2, Boston, Mass.: Lord & Nagle Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 122:
      It is a very difficult thing to make a good yarn of nitty [cotton] stock. The nits will stick to the cotton to quite an extent anyway, in spite of all the efforts made to prevent it. A few years ago we had some very nitty stock and we got the best results by running the beaters so as to give about 40 blows per inch of stock delivered on our plain two bladed beaters.
    • 2017 December 17, Susannah Constantine, “Susannah Constantine’s unusual nit infestation gets treated by head vacuum”, in The New Zealand Herald[1], Auckland, archived from the original on 21 December 2017:
      Super-lice are bad news for most of us, but not for nit clinics, which are fast expanding. [] Then it is time for phase two, which involves a heat treatment, blasting hot air at my skull to dehydrate the eggs and eradicate the remaining offenders. This machine, rather like a high-tech salon hairdryer, is at times slightly scalding but not more painful than using a pair of hair straighteners. Finally, any nitty survivors are meticulously combed out, strand by strand.
  2. (chiefly British, slang) Foolish, inane.
    Synonyms: dumb, idiotic; see also Thesaurus:stupid, Thesaurus:foolish
    • 2018 July 17, Melissa Lockyer, “Putin’s Press Conference with Trump Shook Stephen Colbert to His Core”, in Time[2], archived from the original on 19 July 2018:
      Stephen Colbert went overtime to get into the “nitty crazy” of President Donald Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, noting that, he was shaken to his core, but “at 54, there’s not a lot of core left.”
Alternative forms[edit]


nitty (plural nitties)

  1. (African-American Vernacular, MLE, slang) A dope fiend, a druggie.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:addict
    • 1998 September 15, “Fiend ’98”, in Respect, performed by Shaquille O’Neal:
      See me breeze in a cream Bentley / Fronting in the sun that’s two-seated / Believe it, pull up to the light and now you looking defeated / Girl, grilling my ice got you heated (yeah) / Yep, beef with the nitty I never needed (wha-wha)
    • 2016 February 22, “Let’s Lurk”, Monkey (lyrics), performed by 67 ft Giggs:
      Trapping ain't dead, the nitty still clucking and ringing my phone / Chilling with bro, talking ’bout money, dough to the dome
    • 2017 September 6, “My Kingdom”, performed by Tel Money:
      I got some nitties on this phone / They ring me consistently / I know the ops hate this face / wanna make me #history
    • 2017 December 22, “No Hook”, performed by 61 – Cee Drilla × Beans × Nz × Ruger:
      And I am whipping off raw, that’s messy / The nitties them call that celly

Etymology 2[edit]

Probably from nitty(-gritty).


nitty (comparative nittier or more nitty, superlative nittiest or most nitty)

  1. (Excessively) detailed or specific; fastidious, fussy, nit-picky.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:fastidious
    • 2015 June 12, Benjamin Morris, “Where Have You Gone, Secretariat?”, in FiveThirtyEight[3], archived from the original on 20 December 2016:
      Clearly, it’s that Secretariat is overrated. OK, exhale. I’m not trolling you. I’m just being extremely nitty about the marginal shades of “really, really great.” By “overrated,” I certainly don’t mean to imply that Secretariat isn’t the best 3-year-old American racehorse in history – he is.
    • 2016 June 20, Ned Lannamann, “Slog: Game of Thrones Recap! Talk Is Cheap in ‘The Battle of the Bastards’”, in The Stranger[4], Seattle, Wash., archived from the original on 30 November 2017:
      There are only a few nits to pick. The nittiest is, of course, the supposed needlessness[sic – meaning needless] death of the dumb and worthless Rickon Stark.
    • 2017 September 29, Jared Prenda, “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane Review”, in The Tower: The Catholic University of America’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1922[5], Washington, D.C., archived from the original on 11 September 2018:
      [] I knew I was not going to get every nitty detail of the life of Radric Delantic Davis, Gucci [Mane]’s legal name. Laflare [i.e., Mane] rarely speaks about his personal life, so I knew I wasn’t going to hear all the details of when he was a hustler or every painstaking detail behind every song.
    • 2018 August 12, Moira Gordon, “Jamie Maclaren delighted to be back at Hibs after summer in limbo”, in The Scotsman[6], Edinburgh, archived from the original on 13 August 2018:
      “Yes, there were discussions but then it came down to the nitty stuff that players don’t want to get involved in – sell-on fees and things like that,” said the striker [Jamie Maclaren]. “And I got to a point where I said, ‘look, whatever is the quickest solution that can help me get there’.[”]
  2. (poker slang) Of a poker player: playing in an overly cautious and reactive manner.
    • 2011 January 7, Rich Ryan, “PokerNews Top Five: Isildur1 Dream List”, in PokerNews[7], archived from the original on 1 September 2016:
      Over the past year and a half Isildur1 has captivated the poker community with his overly aggressive play and mesmerizing swings in the highest cash games online. His most intriguing characteristic isn’t his combativeness or his disregard for money; however, it’s his anonymity. [] [Phil] Hellmuth is far too nitty to be the face behind an online maniac such as Isildur1, he’s already rumored to be "#1_Lucky_One" and he’s clearly not spending copious amounts of time grinding high stakes in Sweden.
    • 2012 July 29, Ed Miller, “Poker Strategy With Ed Miller – Bet Sizing Tells: Knowing what to Look For”, in Card Player[8], archived from the original on 12 September 2016:
      I recently played the following hand in a $2–$5 game in Las Vegas. I had a $1,000 stack. A nitty regular player opened from under the gun for $20 with a $1,000 stack. Another nitty player directly to my right called. This player had about $350 behind.
    • 2013, Jonathan Grotenstein, Storms Reback, chapter 30, in Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-year-old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker’s LOUDEST, CRAZIEST, and RICHEST Crew, New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, →ISBN:
      Good2cu figures he can budget $50,000—around 25 percent of his net worth—for a new set of wheels, although a nittier recess of his poker mind knows that buying new is for suckers. Cars lose a significant portion of their value the moment you drive them off the lot.
    • 2015 March 8, Ed Miller, “Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Attacking Bad Continuation Bets: Miller Explains Why You Shouldn’t Continuation Bet Every Time”, in Card Player[9], archived from the original on 1 April 2017:
      These days, even the nittiest regular players use continuation bets. But not every flop calls for a continuation bet from every hand.
    • 2018 August 15, Pamela Maldonado, “Prop Bets: Lily Kiletto to Bench Press; Joey Ingram Makes Music Video”, in PokerNews[10], archived from the original on 15 August 2018:
      "Ladies Night" on Poker Night in America was far from nitty, so naturally the bets continued once the game wrapped up for the night.

Etymology 3[edit]

A clipping of nitid (bright, lustrous, shining), or directly derived from Latin nitidus (glittering, shining), from niteō (to glitter, shine; to look beautiful or bright) (from Proto-Indo-European *ney- (to shine)) + idus (suffix meaning ‘tending to’).


nitty (comparative more nitty, superlative most nitty)

  1. (obsolete, rare) Shining; elegant, spruce.
    • 1598, John Marston, “Satire III. Quædam et sunt, et videntur.”, in The Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image. And Certaine Satyres, At London: printed [by James Roberts] for Edmond Matts, [], →OCLC; republished in A[rthur] H[enry] Bullen, editor, The Works of John Marston [...] In Three Volumes, volume III, London: John C. Nimmo [], 1887, →OCLC, pages 276–277, lines 18–22:
      O dapper, rare, complete, sweet nitty youth! / Jesu Maria! How his clothes appear / Cross'd and recross'd with lace, sure for some fear / Lest that some spirit with a tippet mace / Should with a ghastly show affright his face.


  1. ^ Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor, editors (2013), “nitty”, in The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 2nd edition, Abingdon, Oxon., New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 1584.

Further reading[edit]