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adjective, rot·ten·er, rot·ten·est.
  1. decomposing or decaying; putrid; tainted, foul, or bad-smelling.
  2. corrupt or morally offensive.
  3. wretchedly bad, unpleasant, or unsatisfactory; miserable: a rotten piece of work; a rotten day at the office.
  4. contemptible; despicable: a rotten little liar; a rotten trick.
  5. (of soil, rocks, etc.) soft, yielding, or friable as the result of decomposition.
  6. 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

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Antonyms for rotten

1. sound. 2. moral. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rottenness

Contemporary Examples of rottenness

Historical Examples of rottenness

  • The earth is corrupt, science only serves to show its rottenness.

    Doctor Pascal

    Emile Zola

  • One thing he teaches, that there is rottenness where he appears.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • What rottenness was within that gilded splendor by which she was surrounded!

  • What right have they to propagate the rottenness of their minds and bodies?

    The Crooked House

    Brandon Fleming

  • Only the rottenness in him hasn't broke out because of the weed.

    The Heart of Unaga

    Ridgwell Cullum

British Dictionary definitions for rottenness


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

late 14c., from rotten + -ness.



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