adjective, rot·ten·er, rot·ten·est.

decomposing or decaying; putrid; tainted, foul, or bad-smelling.
corrupt or morally offensive.
wretchedly bad, unpleasant, or unsatisfactory; miserable: a rotten piece of work; a rotten day at the office.
contemptible; despicable: a rotten little liar; a rotten trick.
(of soil, rocks, etc.) soft, yielding, or friable as the result of decomposition.
Australian Slang. drunk.

Origin of rotten

1175–1225; Middle English roten < Old Norse rotinn, past participle of an unrecorded verb meaning “to rot”
Related formsrot·ten·ly, adverbrot·ten·ness, nounhalf-rot·ten, adjectiveun·rot·ten, adjective

Synonyms for rotten

Antonyms for rotten

1. sound. 2. moral. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rotten

Contemporary Examples of rotten

Historical Examples of rotten

  • Even the best of them were rotten to the core, and but mere adventurers.


    Scian Dubh

  • There ain't a rotten knot in it from butt to finish, and mighty few of any other kind.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • She was of about two hundred tons burthen, but must have-been old and rotten.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most polluted, were a rotten red.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • But he took me to his own house for a glass of sherry and a biscuit, and there it wasn't so rotten.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for rotten



affected with rot; decomposing, decaying, or putrid
breaking up, esp through age or hard use; disintegratingrotten ironwork
morally despicable or corrupt
untrustworthy, disloyal, or treacherous
informal unpleasant, unfortunate, or nastyrotten luck; rotten weather
informal unsatisfactory or poorrotten workmanship
informal miserably unwell
informal distressed, uncomfortable, and embarrassedI felt rotten when I told him to go
(of rocks, soils, etc) soft and crumbling, esp as a result of weathering
slang, mainly Australian and NZ intoxicated; drunk

adverb informal

extremely; very muchmen fancy her rotten
Derived Formsrottenly, adverbrottenness, noun

Word Origin for rotten

C13: from Old Norse rottin; related to Old English rotian to rot 1
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 rotten

c.1300, from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse rotinn "decayed," past participle of verb related to rotna "to decay," from Proto-Germanic stem *rut- (see rot (v.)). Sense of "corrupt" is from late 14c.; weakened sense of "bad" first recorded 1881. Rotten apple is from a saying traced back to at least 1528: "For one rotten apple lytell and lytell putrifieth an whole heape." The Rotten Row in London and elsewhere probably is from a different word, but of uncertain origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper