Definition of graffiti in US English:


plural noun

  • treated as singular or plural Writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.

    ‘the walls were covered with graffiti’
    as modifier ‘a graffiti artist’
    • ‘A classroom was trashed and walls were daubed with graffiti spray before the wooden library door was set alight.’
    • ‘Since very few trains circulated, graffiti artists started tagging and painting entire subway trains.’
    • ‘On his right, the alley ended against a brick wall covered in purple graffiti.’
    • ‘Parks with elegant stone walls were covered with graffiti.’
    • ‘No-one knew how the graffito got there, and as those were the days before closed circuit cameras, no culprit was spotted and certainly the artist never claimed his work.’
    • ‘Once inside, they sprayed graffiti on the walls and ceiling, and Mr MacDonald believes they smoked cannabis.’
    • ‘But now, after the club spent months renovating the site, vandals have covered the walls with graffiti.’
    • ‘What can possibly be done to prevent graffiti being sprayed on every available surface?’
    • ‘We just returned from your city and were shocked by the criminal graffiti on every flat surface that has appeared in the last year.’
    • ‘Police have appealed for help in tracking down a mysterious graffiti artist spraying walls, garages and shops in Park South with a unique tag.’
    • ‘They would also be able to stop and search suspected graffiti artists for spray cans and marker pens, said Mr Denham.’
    • ‘Most of the cells were dirty and the walls covered with graffiti.’
    • ‘Yesterday, I saw two workers patiently painting over the gold graffiti that had been sprayed on a wall of the metro platform.’
    • ‘I do not see graffiti sprayed on someone's garage or wall as creative.’
    • ‘Last month the Evening Press backed a move by York Police to flush out graffiti vandals who daub walls and buildings in our city with their unsightly scrawl.’
    • ‘Paramedics could not believe their eyes when they discovered yobs had sprayed graffiti over the side of one of their ambulances.’
    • ‘In Cricklade, its store has had graffiti sprayed on the walls.’
    • ‘Police in Swindon are urging residents to come forward with clues to help snare vandals who sprayed racist graffiti on walls in Old Town.’
    • ‘Eggs and stones were hurled around, walls covered in graffiti and shoppers sworn at.’
    • ‘Various graffito was scrawled across the walls.’


[with object]
  • 1Write or draw graffiti on (something)

    ‘he and another artist graffitied an entire train’
    • ‘As well as the smashing of the glass hands vandals have also graffitied areas on and around the sculpture with swastikas.’
    • ‘The youths used threatening behaviour, caused damage to vehicles, threw missiles at neighbours' property, verbally abused and intimidated neighbours and graffitied the area.’
    • ‘In January 2001 three-quarters of their pavilion was burnt down, costing an estimated £200,000 to repair, and the metal shutters were graffitied just last week.’
    • ‘The Mercedes swept past its curiously rounded tower and shattered, graffitied windows at 100 mph.’
    • ‘People probably think we have closed down, so we have graffitied the boards saying business as usual.’
    • ‘It is heavily graffitied and the dripping paint forms a chaotic pattern that completely disrupts the flat and freshly plowed field in the background.’
    • ‘A group of people came through the chipped, scratched and graffitied doors.’
    • ‘A feeling of this urban carnival comes across in the promotional photographs for the show, which were shot in the graffitied lavatories of the Dragon Bar in East London.’
    • ‘The operator is expected to keep the trains clean, and passengers are expected to take their rubbish with them and also not graffiti them.’
    • ‘There was also a sink, some graffitied lockers, and a small table.’
    • ‘The results were welcomed by members of the parish council, who had asked the pupils some time ago to come up with designs to artistically graffiti the shelter.’
    • ‘Images of derelict playgrounds and shabby facilities form the graffitied landscape 12-year-old Zack calls home and are the focus of his photographs.’
    1. 1.1 Write (words or drawings) as graffiti.
      • ‘When Nazi swastikas were graffitied around where he worked, it took managers over a year to have them cleaned up.’
      • ‘‘The paramilitaries have graffitied threats against us on the walls.’’
      • ‘When a platoon of American troops in WWII were making their way across Europe, they came across a bombed-out monastery with these words graffitied on its basement wall.’


In Italian, the word graffiti is a plural noun, and its singular form is graffito. Traditionally, the same distinction has been maintained in English, so that graffiti, being plural, would require a plural verb: the graffiti were all over the wall. By the same token, the singular would require a singular verb: there was a graffito on the wall. Today these distinctions survive in some specialist fields such as archaeology, but sound odd to most native speakers. The most common modern use is to treat graffiti as if it were a mass noun, similar to a word like writing, and not to use graffito at all. In this case, graffiti takes a singular verb, as in the graffiti was all over the wall. Such uses are now widely accepted as standard and may be regarded as part of the natural development of the language, rather than as mistakes. A similar process is going on with other words such as agenda, data, and media


Mid 19th century: from Italian (plural), from graffio ‘a scratch’.