Definition of nasty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnastē/

adjective (nastier, nastiest)

1Highly unpleasant, especially to the senses; physically nauseating: plastic bags burn with a nasty, acrid smell
More example sentences
  • Through careful planning people can avoid inheritance tax, which can come as a nasty shock at what is bound to be an upsetting time.
  • Publishers, apparently, found it a nasty shock to be ‘up against someone whose skill in driving a bargain equalled if not excelled their own’.
  • For those who enjoy eating out (or eating in with a takeaway) and thought that by avoiding junk food they could do so healthily, this will have come as a nasty shock.
unpleasant, disagreeable, disgusting, distasteful, awful, dreadful, horrible, terrible, vile, foul, abominable, frightful, loathsome, revolting, repulsive, odious, sickening, nauseating, repellent, repugnant, horrendous, appalling, atrocious, offensive, objectionable, obnoxious, unsavory, unappetizing, off-putting;
noxious, foul-smelling, smelly, stinking, rank, fetid, malodorous, mephitic
informal ghastly, horrid, gruesome, diabolical, yucky, skanky, godawful, gross, beastly, lousy, funky
literary miasmal, noisome
serious, dangerous, bad, awful, dreadful, terrible, severe;
painful, ugly
1.1(Of the weather) unpleasantly cold or wet: a cold, nasty day
More example sentences
  • This allows easy access at night or in nasty weather.
  • After what seemed like an eternity of thick fog and really nasty weather, the skies finally cleared up yesterday.
  • The weather was nasty, very, very stormy and a lot of people were seasick.
unpleasant, disagreeable, foul, filthy, inclement;
wet, stormy, cold, blustery, blizzardy
1.2Repugnant to the mind; morally bad: her stories are very nasty, full of murder and violence
More example sentences
  • Joe tried to look as his normal-self again; but his mind kept exploding with nasty thoughts towards the girl, Laura.
  • I want to think of something to insult you at the moment, but nothing comes to mind that's nasty enough not to compliment you.
  • He was a miserable little narrow minded bigot with a nasty temper.
obscene, indecent, offensive, crude, rude, dirty, filthy, vulgar, foul, gross, disgusting, pornographic, smutty, lewd
informal sick, X-rated
2(Of a person or animal) behaving in an unpleasant or spiteful way: Harry was a nasty, foul-mouthed old devil when she confronted him, he turned nasty
More example sentences
  • A voice that was nasty and spiteful, leaping at any chance to cause her pain.
  • His imperialists are often nasty folk who behaved horribly towards the natives under their yoke.
  • Not just a grudge, but a hateful, vindictive, nasty bitterness that I didn't even know existed until this person's name was brought up.
unkind, unpleasant, unfriendly, disagreeable, rude, churlish, spiteful, malicious, mean, ill-tempered, ill-natured, vicious, malevolent, obnoxious, hateful, hurtful
informal bitchy, catty
2.1Annoying or unwelcome: life has a nasty habit of repeating itself
More example sentences
  • Just too many nasty trick questions and annoying video clips of past statements, but that's why you get the big money.
  • Unfortunately, this type of viewing can become a nasty habit that, in the end, sabotages any meaningful engagement with sports.
  • Unfortunately, plenty of investors develop the nasty habit of boasting of their gains instead of contemplating possible overvaluation concerns.
annoying, irritating, infuriating, disagreeable, unpleasant, maddening, exasperating
3Physically or mentally damaging or harmful: a nasty, vicious-looking hatchet
More example sentences
  • It takes about five minutes to get to the surface without bursting your lungs or doing some other nasty damage to your body.
  • If left unchecked, free radicals cause nasty damage to the body's cell membranes and DNA.
  • Your luscious locks can also suffer from heat damage and nasty rays from the sun so they need some protection too.

noun (plural nasties)

(often nasties) informal
1An unpleasant or harmful person or thing: bacteria and other nasties
More example sentences
  • The problem with these nasties is that they lack motivation: it's impossible to tell whether they act out of naïvety, malice or both.
  • Yet despite the presence of molds, bacteria, and other nasties, most archaeological sites, including tombs, have proven safe for science and tourism alike.
  • The land tax sting is going to be quite a political nasty.
1.1chiefly British A horror video or movie.
Example sentences
  • Blockbusters won't be stocking the new nasties.
  • I want to see horror hark back to the old days of video nasties.



Pronunciation: /ˈnastəlē/
Example sentences
  • It will fight nastily, brutally and with no compunction.
  • What I mean here is that when the Romans had a mutiny, obviously you can't kill everyone in a mutinous army as you'd have no army, so they killed some of them really nastily, and made the others watch.
  • Equally, why are stay-at-home mums so nastily eager to imagine that the children of their working sisters are damaged, unloved, neurotic, tormented?


Late Middle English: of unknown origin.

  • The origins of nasty, which was first recorded in the Middle Ages, are uncertain, although it is probably related to Dutch and Swedish words with similar meaning. It originally meant ‘filthy, offensively dirty’, but its force has been gradually toned down, although in America it remains a more strongly negative term than it is in Britain. The phrase something nasty in the woodshed comes from the comic novel Cold Comfort Farm (1932) by Stella Gibbons: Aunt Ada Doom's peculiarities are explained by the fact that when she was small she had seen something nasty in the woodshed, but we are never told what. Nasty piece of work or nasty bit of work, ‘an unpleasant person’, is a slang term first found in a 1923 book by the author ‘Bartimeus’ (the pseudonym for Lewis Anselm da Costa Ricci). ‘Bartimeus’ wrote books on a nautical theme, such as Naval Occasions and Seaways, and it is possible that the expression originated as naval slang. In informal English nasty can also be a noun, meaning ‘a nasty person’ or ‘an unpleasant or harmful thing’. Today it is most often found in connection with gratuitously violent or pornographic films or video nasties, a use first recorded in the early 1980s.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: nas·ty

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