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[not-ee] /ˈnɒt i/
adjective, knottier, knottiest.
having knots; full of knots:
a knotty piece of wood.
involved, intricate, or difficult:
a knotty problem.
Origin of knotty
First recorded in 1200-50, knotty is from the Middle English word cnotti. See knot1, -y1
Related forms
knottily, adverb
knottiness, noun
unknotty, adjective
2. complex, complicated. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for knotty
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Sun reported this answer to his council, who debated the question, which was knotty.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • Its bark is more rough and knotty than that of the palm-tree.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • If any of them (as sometimes they are) be knotty, I referre them to Chap.

    A New Orchard And Garden William Lawson
  • He had always meant to settle for himself that knotty question.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
  • Then when it did come, it was crooked and knotty, much of it such as a woman could not split.

  • "Yes, that's it," muttered the other, in the tone of a man who was tired of a knotty problem.

    The Fortunes Of Glencore Charles James Lever
  • She stood at his shoulder while he pointed out the knotty passage.

    Wayside Courtships Hamlin Garland
  • And now, who is she, this beauty who has set thee so knotty a problem to solve?

British Dictionary definitions for knotty


adjective -tier, -tiest
(of wood, rope, etc) full of or characterized by knots
extremely difficult or intricate
Derived Forms
knottily, adverb
knottiness, noun
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 knotty

mid-13c. (figurative use early 13c.), from knot (n.) + -y (2). Related: Knottiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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