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[dou-dee] /ˈdaʊ di/
adjective, dowdier, dowdiest.
not stylish; drab; old-fashioned:
Why do you always wear those dowdy old dresses?
not neat or tidy; shabby.
noun, plural dowdies.
a dowdy woman.
Origin of dowdy1
1300-50; Middle English doude unattractive woman (of uncertain origin) + -y1 or -y2
Related forms
dowdily, adverb
dowdiness, noun
dowdyish, adjective
dowdyism, noun
1. frumpy.
1. fashionable, stylish.


[dou-dee] /ˈdaʊ di/
noun, plural dowdies.
First recorded in 1935-40; short form Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for dowdy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Henry perceived that his mother and his aunt were badly dressed—in truth, dowdy.

    A Great Man Arnold Bennett
  • You know you wouldn't like it if I went about in dowdy old things.

    Half a Hero Anthony Hope
  • A little girl in Punch improves on the talk of her dowdy mother with the maids.

    The Children Alice Meynell
  • So that dowdy get-up is for my benefit, and is not habitual to her!

    Man and Maid Elinor Glyn
  • Why do you hide your hair, and wear such a dowdy, high gown, Julia?

    The Wolves and the Lamb William Makepeace Thackeray
British Dictionary definitions for dowdy


adjective -dier, -diest
(esp of a woman's dress) drab, unflattering, and old-fashioned
noun (pl) -dies
a dowdy woman
Derived Forms
dowdily, adverb
dowdiness, noun
dowdyish, adjective
Word Origin
C14: dowd slut, of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for dowdy

1580s (n.), "an aukward, ill-dressed, inelegant woman" [Johnson]; 1670s (adj.), perhaps a diminutive of doue "poorly dressed woman" (early 14c.), of uncertain origin. The modern use of dowd (n.) is most likely a back-formation from dowdy. "If plaine or homely, wee saie she is a doudie or a slut" [Barnabe Riche, "Riche his Farewell to Militarie profession," 1581].

You don't have to be dowdy to be a Christian. [Tammy Faye Bakker, "Newsweek," June 8, 1987]
Related: Dowdily; dowdiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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