See also: -nasty



From Middle English nasty, nasti, naxty, naxte (unclean, filthy), probably from Old Norse *nask- +‎ -y, whence also Early Modern English nasky (nasty). Compare Swedish naskig, naskug (nasty, dirty, messy), Swedish and Danish nasket (dirty, foul, unpleasant). Compare also Low German nask (nasty).[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, p. 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.
    • 2013 June 1, “Towards the end of poverty”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8838, page 11:
      But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 (the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines, measured in 2005 dollars and adjusted for differences in purchasing power): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short.
  2. Contemptible, unpleasant (of a person). [from 15th c.]
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, Dracula:
      Jonathan kept staring at him, till I was afraid he would notice. I feared he might take it ill, he looked so fierce and nasty.
  3. Objectionable, unpleasant (of a thing); repellent, offensive. [from 16th c.]
    • 1838, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist:
      ‘It's a nasty trade,’ said Mr. Limbkins, when Gamfield had again stated his wish.
  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 2009, p. 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, The Guardian, 3 Jun 2012:
      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 Britain) Awkward, difficult to navigate; dangerous. [from 19th c.]
    • 2007, The Observer, 5 Aug 2007:
      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 Britain) Grave or dangerous (of an accident, illness etc.). [from 19th c.]
    • 2012, James Ball, The Guardian, 2 Mar 2012:
      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.]



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, 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 termsEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 nasty” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020., citing the OED
  2. ^ nasty” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020., citing Barnhart
  3. ^ R de Gorog, The Etymology of Nasty (1976, JStor)