Definition of unkempt in English:

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Pronunciation: /ʌnˈkɛm(p)t/


(Especially of a person) having an untidy or dishevelled appearance: they were unwashed and unkempt
More example sentences
  • He was rather unkempt, so we didn't want to put him in the new family car for his ride home.
  • He had on a white shirt and black trousers which were too short and he was unkempt.
  • This means that the cemetery has a very untidy, unkempt appearance but this will soon change.
informal sloppy, tatty, the worse for wear
British informal grotty
North American informal mussed up



Example sentences
  • His pale, blond hair stuck out unkemptly, almost looking silvery under the dim light.
  • He had undone his oiled topknot and his graying hair was spread unkemptly upon his long neck.
  • Her brown face was seamed with a hundred wrinkles, and her tangled, grizzled hair fell unkemptly over her shoulders.


Example sentences
  • His colleagues snicker at the twilight samurai as he leaves, at his shabby dress and general unkemptness as well as his reason for leaving.
  • Imagine a thin moody moustache is slithering across my upper lip rather than the manly unkemptness that I call my beard.
  • ‘Joe, Joe,’ he'd crackle, his husky voice matching his mussed hair and general unkemptness.


Late Middle English: from un-1 'not' + kempt 'combed' (past participle of archaic kemb, related to comb).

  • People have only combed their hair since around 1400; before that they would have kembed it and their hair would have been kempt. These are forms of the old word kemb, which was eventually replaced by the related word comb, an Old English word which may have the underlying sense of ‘tooth’. The term has survived, though, sometimes in the form kempt but especially in unkempt, which has come to mean ‘untidy or dishevelled’ rather than ‘uncombed’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: un|kempt

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