Definition of dirty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdərdē/

adjective (dirtier, dirtiest)

1Covered or marked with an unclean substance: a tray of dirty cups and saucers her boots were dirty
More example sentences
  • I just had a bath to relax and because I was filthy dirty… covered in paint and wallpaper paste, and feet black with newsprint off the newspapers I'd put on the floor.
  • The toilet bowls were unclean and the floor was wet and dirty, and covered in rubbish.
  • It was wrinkled almost beyond repair and, because he hadn't taken off his shoes, covered in dirty footprints.
soiled, grimy, grubby, filthy, mucky, stained, unwashed, greasy, smeared, smeary, spotted, smudged, cloudy, muddy, dusty, sooty;
unclean, sullied, impure, tarnished, polluted, contaminated, defiled, foul, unhygienic, unsanitary
informal cruddy, yucky, icky, grotty, grungy
literary befouled, besmirched, begrimed
1.1Causing a person or environment to become unclean: farming is a hard, dirty job
More example sentences
  • ‘My father was a steel worker all his life, in a filthy, dirty, dangerous job,’ he says.
  • If you had a dirty job and your hands were filthy and the call came to roll eggs, there was little opportunity to wash your hands.
  • The feeling of compassion was actually based on the idea we were leading much happier and superior lives than they were able to and that we looked down upon the dirty and hard jobs they performed.
1.2(Of a nuclear weapon) producing considerable radioactive fallout.
Example sentences
  • He says that Blair tried to persuade him the Middle East and the whole world were under threat from Iraq's supposed long-range weapons carrying dirty warheads.
1.3(Of a color) not bright, clear, or pure: the sea was a waste of dirty gray
More example sentences
  • I drop my head, allowing my eyes to wash over the dirty colour of the floorboards.
  • The carpet is a dirty beige - my shoes (too small… children's shoes) are muddy, and the laces trail behind my feet.
  • The floor was old and dirty beige carpet, and the walls were painted off white but where chipped and peeling.
1.4Concerned with sex in an unpleasant or obscene way: he told a stream of dirty jokes
More example sentences
  • I mean, they tell all sorts of dirty jokes and discuss lewd things in language I hate to admit I get to listen to all around me, but let someone act like a human being and everyone freaks.
  • He tells dirty joke after dirty joke and makes a lot of sexual references in every conversation.
  • The joke about your boyfriend was downright dirty and obscene.
informal blue, triple-X, XXX
euphemistic adult
1.5 [attributive] informal Used to emphasize one’s disgust for someone or something: you dirty rat!
More example sentences
  • I mean, he is a dirty rat, he is a key enemy figure that has to be taken down, but there's other insurgent organizations involved.
  • Of all the dirty, rotten, disgusting things you've done, this has to be one of the lowest.
  • Whatever the provocation, I have to say that it is a pretty low-down dirty thing to rat on someone for surfing-at-work to their employer.
despicable, contemptible, hateful, vile, low, mean, unworthy, worthless, beyond contempt, sordid
informal rotten
archaic scurvy
1.6(Of an activity) dishonest; dishonorable: he had a reputation for dirty dealing
More example sentences
  • Greenpeace has a good info page about the environmental impact ship-breaking - as one would imagine, this is a dangerous, dirty activity.
  • They like things like slimey frogs, dirty activities, sticks and stones, and throwing those sticks and stones at other people and things.
  • However, they've rarely turned their eye on themselves to assess just what sort of dirty dealing may be going on in-house.
1.7(Of weather) rough, stormy, and unpleasant: the yacht was ready for dirty weather
More example sentences
  • Where is the obligatory miasma of old industry and dirty weather, you wonder; the thunderheads stripped of silver linings?
  • I've never seen such vicious, dirty weather give up so easily.
  • Yes - to compound our sickness we picked some dirty weather.
1.8(Of popular music) having a distorted or rasping tone: Nirvana’s dirty guitar sound
More example sentences
  • He tends to favor cut-up dirty 70s funk guitar samples that he uses mostly to punctuate his chunky beats.
  • LCD Soundsystem is first and foremost, a dance-rock party album full of dirty sounds and nasty grooves.
  • Really, a great disc for anyone who loves deep down, sometimes dirty music.

verb (dirties, dirtying, dirtied)

[with object]
Make dirty: she didn’t like him dirtying her nice clean towels
More example sentences
  • She accuses them of spoiling the sofa and dirtying the linen.
  • Pillars turning into arches kept the roof from falling on those who passed through the halls and the floor that once upon a time was solid now a muddy slush dirties everything it touches.
  • When baby dirties herself, clean her up right away.
soil, stain, muddy, blacken, mess up, mark, spatter, bespatter, smudge, smear, splatter;
sully, pollute, foul, defile
literary befoul, besmirch, begrime



the dirty end of the stick

informal The difficult or unpleasant part of a task or situation.
Example sentences
  • O'Donoghue's suggestion that there is something mythical about the price of living in this country is not just insulting to the millions of people who have been left with the dirty end of the stick - it is also breathtaking in its arrogance.
  • From where I stand, I think our entire region would end up with the dirty end of the stick, so I think we all need to join hands and chant ‘Give Peace a Chance!’
  • It now seems most likely that Global Trust Bank shareholders will be left holding the dirty end of the stick.

get one's hands dirty (or dirty one's hands)

Do manual, menial, or other hard work: unlike most chairmen, he gets his hands dirty working alongside the other managers
More example sentences
  • And those who do have jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber are more likely than anywhere else to be getting their hands dirty in manual or semi-skilled jobs.
  • People think that if you go straight into football you don't appreciate finishing early, that you don't have to get your hands dirty or work hard.
  • I never forgot where I'd come from, and I was never too good that I couldn't get my hands dirty and do menial jobs.
informal2.1 Become involved in dishonest or dishonorable activity: they can make a lot of money, but fat cats don’t get their hands dirty
More example sentences
  • Have there been trends where you feel like you're getting your hands dirty by even involving yourself?
  • We weren't even sure whether we wanted to get involved, get our hands dirty with politics.
  • Elections are a dirty business, and Brown makes no apology for getting his hands dirty.

play dirty

informal Act in a dishonest or unfair way.
Example sentences
  • Of course, even when somebody plays dirty, losing is losing and it's not long before nobody cares about the details.
  • Tesco plays dirty, it seems, when it comes to moving in on a new location.
  • During the next election campaign don't be surprised when Labour plays dirty.

talk dirty

informal Speak about sex in a coarse or obscene way.
Example sentences
  • Women who effortlessly talk dirty are exciting and hold the promise of amazing sex.
  • She talks dirty and suggestively, and most of the men just ignore her - but she is particularly forceful if a man doesn't respond to her.
  • The beauty of talking dirty in the sack is that you communicate it's not only your body which is aroused but your senses and mind as well.

wash one's dirty laundry in public

see wash.



Pronunciation: /ˈdərdəlē/
Example sentences
  • Sure, Cavendish can shake and shimmy with the best of them and growl as dirtily as West as she delivers lines like ‘I used to be Snow White - but I drifted.’
  • But as anyone who has had to deal with them knows, the Liberals' squeaky clean image is quite wrong: they fight viciously and dirtily.
  • And yes, ok, that could be taken really dirtily…


Pronunciation: /ˈdərdēnis/
Example sentences
  • I didn't understand what had to be clean-my feet felt fine and I couldn't smell anything to suggest dirtiness, but I suppose the Lady is very picky and wanted the stalls to be super clean.
  • The failure of dirt availability or habitat selection to explain the timing of male dirtiness suggests that males delay dirtying their plumage to obtain some benefit from conspicuous plumage.
  • I thought that untidiness and dirtiness were the characteristics of cities in some underdeveloped country of the past, like Calcutta, Bombay, Rio de Janeiro or elsewhere, but not here in Australia.

Words that rhyme with dirty

Alberti, Bertie, flirty, shirty, thirty

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dirt·y

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