adjective, sketch·i·er, sketch·i·est.

like a sketch; giving only outlines or essentials.
imperfect, incomplete, slight, or superficial: a sketchy meal.
  1. unreliable or unsafe: That street looks pretty sketchy.
  2. disreputable or shady: I'd stay away from him; he's got a sketchy past.

Origin of sketchy

First recorded in 1795–1805; sketch + -y1
Related formssketch·i·ly, adverbsketch·i·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sketchy

Contemporary Examples of sketchy

Historical Examples of sketchy

  • I can't swear to any of these things; they're sketchy impressions.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • The sketchy nephew hinted that he might have fallen off a bridge.

  • It is a phrase that recurs at intervals in his sketchy "Confessions."


    Rafael Sabatini

  • He could just write a kind of sketchy hand, and didn't care for writing at all.


    Joseph Conrad

  • She is too young to endure it, sobbed the by-product to her of the sketchy face.


    Robert W. Chambers

British Dictionary definitions for sketchy


adjective sketchier or sketchiest

characteristic of a sketch; existing only in outline
superficial or slight
informal uncertain or unreliable
Derived Formssketchily, adverbsketchiness, 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 sketchy

1805, "having the form or character of a sketch," from sketch (n.) + -y (1). Colloquial sense of "unsubstantial, imperfect, flimsy" is from 1878, perhaps via the notion of "unfinished." Related: Sketchily; sketchiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper