See also: -nasty and Nasty



From Middle English nasty, nasti, naxty, naxte (unclean, filthy), unknown origin. Whence also Early Modern English nasky (nasty). 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, 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.
  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 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 UK) 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 UK) 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.]

Derived termsEdit



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 termsEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “nasty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary., citing the OED
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “nasty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary., citing Barnhart
  3. ^ R de Gorog, The Etymology of Nasty (1976, JStor)