- Unknown, but possibly from shoad (“loose stone and rubble; fragments”), equivalent to shoad + -y; or possibly from the Arabic word for reuse. Shoad was of inferior quality for building.
- The modern adjectival sense was apparently derived from inexpensive shoddy (“fabric from wool-processing byproduct”), which was not really suitable for (but was sometimes still used for) things such as military uniforms at the beginning of the US Civil War.
of poor quality
- A low-grade cloth made from by-products of wool processing, or from recycled wool.
- 1849, “A Statistical Outline of the Present Condition & Progress of the Anglo-Saxon Race”, in The Anglo-Saxon, page 123:
- Formerly, shoddy cloth was “used only for padding, and such like purposes, but now blankets, flushings, druggets, carpets, and table covers, cloth for pilot and Petersham great” coats, &c., are either wholly or partly made of shoddy, which, in fact, is “occasionally worn by everybody. The beautiful woollen table covers are made wholly of shoddy, being printed by aqua-fortis from designs drawn in London and Manchester, and cut on holly and other blocks, on the spot.”
- 1988, James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, Oxford 2003, p. 324:
- To fill contracts for hundreds of thousands of uniforms, textile manufacturers compressed the fibers of recycled woolen goods into a material called “shoddy”.
- (dated) Worthless goods.
- (colloquial, dated) Vulgar pretence or sham.