not combed: unkempt hair.
uncared-for or neglected; disheveled; messy: unkempt clothes; an unkempt lawn.
unpolished; rough; crude.

Origin of unkempt

1590–1600; variant of unkembed; see un-1, kempt
Related formsun·kempt·ly, adverbun·kempt·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unkempt

Contemporary Examples of unkempt

Historical Examples of unkempt

  • He ran through the unkempt garden, and was quickly at the door.

    The Dare Boys of 1776

    Stephen Angus Cox

  • Shorn was the unkempt mop of hair and vanished the impudent swagger.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • He even began a smile in the shadows of his unkempt moustache.

    The Market-Place

    Harold Frederic

  • There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable.

  • Peter knew me not at first, so changed and unkempt was I with my long journeyings.

    Sir Ludar

    Talbot Baines Reed

British Dictionary definitions for unkempt



(of the hair) uncombed; dishevelled
ungroomed; slovenlyunkempt appearance
archaic crude or coarse
Derived Formsunkemptly, adverbunkemptness, noun

Word Origin for unkempt

Old English uncembed; from un- 1 + cembed, past participle of cemban to comb; related to Old Saxon kembian, Old High German kemben to comb
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 unkempt

1570s, from un- (1) "not" + kempt "well-combed, neat," from variant past participle of Old English cemban "to comb," from Proto-Germanic *kambijan, from *kamb- "comb" (see comb). Form unkembed is recorded from late 14c. The verb kemb is rare after 1400s, but its negative past participle form endures.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper