adjective, dow·di·er, dow·di·est.

not stylish; drab; old-fashioned: Why do you always wear those dowdy old dresses?
not neat or tidy; shabby.

noun, plural dow·dies.

a dowdy woman.

Origin of dowdy

1300–50; Middle English doude unattractive woman (of uncertain origin) + -y1 or -y2
Related formsdow·di·ly, adverbdow·di·ness, noundow·dy·ish, adjectivedow·dy·ism, noun

Synonyms for dowdy

1. frumpy.

Antonyms for dowdy



noun, plural dow·dies.

Origin of dowdy

First recorded in 1935–40; short form Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dowdy

Contemporary Examples of dowdy

Historical Examples of dowdy

  • 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 or -diest

(esp of a woman's dress) drab, unflattering, and old-fashioned

noun plural -dies

a dowdy woman
Derived Formsdowdily, adverbdowdiness, noundowdyish, adjective

Word Origin for dowdy

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

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