Definition of shabby in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈSHabē/

adjective (shabbier, shabbiest)

1In poor condition through long or hard use or lack of care: a conscript in a shabby uniform saluted the car
More example sentences
  • Yet their fictional lives are placed in direct contrast with their shabby and poor surroundings.
  • Regardless of the kitchen's shabby condition, this was home to Isis.
  • They were in shabby condition, having fallen into disrepair.
run-down, down-at-heel, down-at-the-heel(s), scruffy, dilapidated, ramshackle, tumbledown;
seedy, slummy, insalubrious, squalid, sordid
informal crummy, flea-bitten, scuzzy, skeevy, raggedy-ass
1.1Dressed in old or worn clothes.
Example sentences
  • There was an aura of displacement about him, I felt, and it wasn't because of his ragged clothes or the shabby appearance.
  • She's a shabby infant among lawyers clad in immaculate coal-coloured, pleated robes.
  • Confucius said, ‘Lavishness leads to arrogance, frugality leads to shabbiness, but it is better to be shabby than arrogant’.
1.2(Of behavior) mean and shameful: shabby, disrespectful treatment
More example sentences
  • Finally, on the biographical debit side there are the usual miscellaneous acts of thoughtlessness, rudeness and generally shabby behaviour.
  • This was, I find, a piece of calculatedly shabby behaviour by which he hoped he might seize some tactical advantage over Mrs Ellis.
  • ‘Their increasingly shabby treatment of people like me is one of the reasons their results are in a tailspin,’ said my friend.
contemptible, despicable, dishonorable, discreditable, mean, low, dirty, hateful, shameful, sorry, ignoble, unfair, unworthy, unkind, shoddy, nasty
informal rotten, lowdown



Pronunciation: /ˈSHabəlē/
Example sentences
  • He was sensitive enough to recognize that racism was an anti-American outrage, proud enough never to accept it, and financially successful enough to live out his autumn years in the same town that once treated him so shabbily.
  • We had also gone to the Centre with a begging bowl, but were shabbily treated.
  • While the police exhibited a great nervousness about what appeared to be a few shabbily dressed kids making vague assertions, the kids were amazingly at ease, at one point getting up to dance and sing.


Pronunciation: /ˈSHabēnəs/
Example sentences
  • Great art is a celebration: ‘The perfection and beauty of form rebels against the ugliness and shabbiness of the subject matter.’
  • It has a certain shabbiness now, and that's unfortunate as it is only a very small proportion of the population which makes it that way.
  • Some of its most loyal clients have taken their productions elsewhere, complaining of its general shabbiness.


Mid 17th century: from dialect shab 'scab' (from a Germanic base meaning 'itch') + -y1.

  • scab from Middle English:

    This comes from Old Norse, going back to a Germanic root meaning ‘itch’. The sense ‘contemptible person’ dating from the late 16th century was probably influenced by Middle Dutch schabbe ‘slut’. It was used to refer to a blackleg in a strike from the mid 18th century, originally in the USA. Shabby (mid 17th century) comes from a dialect variant of the source of scab. Dr Johnson wrote that shabby was: ‘A word that has crept into conversation and low writing, but ought not to be admitted into the language’.

Words that rhyme with shabby

abbey, cabby, crabby, flabby, gabby, grabby, Rabbie, scabby, tabby, yabby

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: shab·by

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