adjective, dirt·i·er, dirt·i·est.

verb (used with or without object), dirt·ied, dirt·y·ing.

to make or become dirty.


Informal. in a mean, unscrupulous, or underhand way: to play dirty.
Informal. in a lewd manner: to talk dirty.


    do (someone) dirty, Slang. to treat unfairly or reprehensibly, as by cheating or slandering.

Origin of dirty

First recorded in 1520–30; dirt + -y1
Related formsdirt·i·ly, adverbdirt·i·ness, noun

Synonyms for dirty

1. grimy, defiled. 3. base, vulgar, low, shabby, groveling. 4. nasty, lascivious, lecherous. 10. rainy, foul, sloppy, disagreeable, nasty. 12. dull, dark, sullied, clouded. 15. soil, befoul, sully.

Synonym study

1. Dirty, filthy, foul, squalid refer to that which is not clean. Dirty is applied to that which is filled or covered with dirt so that it is unclean or defiled: dirty clothes. Filthy is an emphatic word suggesting something that is excessively soiled or dirty: filthy streets. Both dirty and filthy can refer to obscenity: a dirty mind, a filthy novel. Foul implies an uncleanness that is grossly offensive to the senses: a foul odor. Squalid, applied usually to dwellings or surroundings, implies dirtiness that results from the slovenly indifference often associated with poverty: a squalid tenement.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dirty

Contemporary Examples of dirty

Historical Examples of dirty

  • If there's not some dirty business in this, I'll eat me hat.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Didn't Shandy always have a gob of it in his cheek—the dirty pig?


    W. A. Fraser

  • It was washing all the color out of the picture, and leaving it a dirty gray.

  • Here in this dirty shanty you will enter into love's fulfillment.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • Pull it out, please, me hand's that dirty'—and out come the writ!

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

British Dictionary definitions for dirty


adjective dirtier or dirtiest

covered or marked with dirt; filthy
  1. obscene; salaciousdirty books
  2. sexually clandestinea dirty weekend
causing one to become grimya dirty job
(of a colour) not clear and bright; impure
unfair; dishonest; unscrupulous; unsporting
mean; nastya dirty cheat
scandalous; unkinda dirty rumour
revealing dislike or angera dirty look
(of weather) rainy or squally; stormy
(of an aircraft) having projections into the airstream, such as lowered flaps
(of an explosive device) modified to cause radioactive contaminationCompare clean (def. 5)
be dirty on Australian slang to be offended by or be hostile towards
dirty dog a despicable person
dirty linen informal intimate secrets, esp those that might give rise to gossip
dirty pool slang, mainly US, Canadian and Australian dishonest behaviour
dirty word
  1. an obscene word
  2. something that is regarded with disapprovalfederalism is a dirty word
dirty work unpleasant or illicit activity
do the dirty on British informal to behave meanly or unkindly towards

verb dirties, dirtying or dirtied

to make or become dirty; stain; soil
Derived Formsdirtily, adverbdirtiness, 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

Word Origin and History for dirty

c.1500, from dirt + -y (2). Earlier dritty (late 14c.). Meaning "smutty, morally unclean" is from 1590s. Of colors, from 1690s. Dirty linen "personal or familial secrets" is first recorded 1860s. Dirty work in the figurative sense is from 1764; dirty trick is from 1670s. The dirty look someone gives you is from 1928; dirty old man "superannuated lecher" is from 1932. Related: dirtiness.


1590s, from dirty (adj.). Related: Dirtied; dirtying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with dirty


In addition to the idioms beginning with dirty

  • dirty joke
  • dirty look, give a
  • dirty one's hands
  • dirty tricks
  • dirty work

also see:

  • down and dirty
  • wash one's dirty linen in public
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.