adjective, dirt·i·er, dirt·i·est.

  1. soiled with dirt; foul; unclean: dirty laundry.
  2. spreading or imparting dirt; soiling: dirty smoke.
  3. vile; mean; sordid; contemptible: to play a dirty trick on someone.
  4. obscene; pornographic; lewd: a dirty joke.
  5. undesirable or unpleasant; thankless: He left the dirty work for me.
  6. very unfortunate or regrettable: That’s a dirty shame!
  7. not fair or sportsmanlike; unscrupulous: a dirty fighter.
  8. hostile, insulting, contemptuous, or resentful: She gave me a dirty look. He made a dirty crack about the cooking.
  9. (of a nuclear weapon) producing a relatively large amount of radioactive fallout.
  10. (of the weather) stormy; squally: It looks dirty to windward.
  11. Informal. obtained through illegal or disreputable means: dirty money.
  12. appearing as if soiled; dark-colored; dingy; murky.
  13. Slang. using or in possession of narcotics.
  14. Foreign Exchange. (of currency floats) manipulated, as by a central bank influencing or changing exchange rates (opposed to clean).

verb (used with or without object), dirt·ied, dirt·y·ing.

  1. to make or become dirty.


  1. Informal. in a mean, unscrupulous, or underhand way: to play dirty.
  2. Informal. in a lewd manner: to talk dirty.
  1. do (someone) dirty, Slang. to treat unfairly or reprehensibly, as by cheating or slandering.

adjective dirtier or dirtiest

  1. covered or marked with dirt; filthy
    1. obscene; salaciousdirty books
    2. sexually clandestinea dirty weekend
  2. causing one to become grimya dirty job
  3. (of a colour) not clear and bright; impure
  4. unfair; dishonest; unscrupulous; unsporting
  5. mean; nastya dirty cheat
  6. scandalous; unkinda dirty rumour
  7. revealing dislike or angera dirty look
  8. (of weather) rainy or squally; stormy
  9. (of an aircraft) having projections into the airstream, such as lowered flaps
  10. (of an explosive device) modified to cause radioactive contaminationCompare clean (def. 5)
  11. be dirty on Australian slang to be offended by or be hostile towards
  12. dirty dog a despicable person
  13. dirty linen informal intimate secrets, esp those that might give rise to gossip
  14. dirty pool slang, mainly US, Canadian and Australian dishonest behaviour
  15. dirty word
    1. an obscene word
    2. something that is regarded with disapprovalfederalism is a dirty word
  16. dirty work unpleasant or illicit activity
  17. do the dirty on British informal to behave meanly or unkindly towards

verb dirties, dirtying or dirtied

  1. to make or become dirty; stain; soil

c.1500, from dirt + -y (2). Earlier dritty (late 14c.). Meaning “smutty, morally unclean” is from 1590s. Of colors, from 1690s. Dirty linen “personal or familial secrets” is first recorded 1860s. Dirty work in the figurative sense is from 1764; dirty trick is from 1670s. The dirty look someone gives you is from 1928; dirty old man “superannuated lecher” is from 1932. Related: dirtiness.


1590s, from dirty (adj.). Related: Dirtied; dirtying.

In addition to the idioms beginning with dirty

  • dirty joke
  • dirty look, give a
  • dirty one’s hands
  • dirty tricks
  • dirty work

also see:

  • down and dirty
  • wash one’s dirty linen in public

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