Definition of tatty in English:



  • 1Worn and shabby; in poor condition.

    ‘the room was furnished in slightly tatty upholstered furniture’
    • ‘In a country where even the hospitals are usually freshly painted, visitors would report on how tatty Nasa facilities always looked, complete with ‘rusting pipes and crumbling concrete’.’
    • ‘To this day I'd rather walk around in a tatty shirt than break out the needle and thread to fix it myself.’
    • ‘In front is a tatty metal-roofed house on stilts with walls of thin, holey plywood daubed in graffiti.’
    • ‘Bookshop rummaging this afternoon, ended up with the exchange of $4.50 for a dog-eared tatty copy of Motel Chronicles & Hawk Moon by Sam Shepard.’
    • ‘When they saw this 70-odd-year-old bloke in tatty green trousers walking towards them they thought it was an old farmer trying to get help for some young pilot who was in trouble.’
    • ‘We are very short of space and ideally I would like to knock down this tatty building and start again.’
    • ‘A man, wearing tatty clothes and an eye patch over his left eye, held out a grimy hand.’
    • ‘The condition of the interior would best be described as tatty.’
    • ‘It needs to look at infrastructure and the streets of tatty old ex-boarding houses.’
    • ‘Phased cuts in educational expenditure as part of Structural Adjustment Programmes left buildings in a tatty, dangerous and unsanitary condition.’
    • ‘He looked dishevelled in old, crumpled clothes, his hair matted and his lips cracking, his tatty shirt a poor defence against the biting cold.’
    • ‘The action takes place in a tatty, family-run city hotel managed by Helena (Mercedes Morán) who is currently seething at the news that her ex-husband has just fathered twins by his new wife.’
    • ‘A tatty, threadbare curtain rises to the accompaniment of a circus drum-roll.’
    • ‘I sat somewhat nervously on a hard and threadbare seat in a tatty compartment, watching the last of the commuters run towards it and jump on.’
    • ‘The furniture is tatty and the books looked about as appetising as goods in a car boot sale.’
    • ‘A third guy, who copped a hefty fine and a community-based order on a burglary charge, wandered in wearing an old pair of trackie daks (with a hole in one knee) and a tatty old jumper.’
    • ‘Even James, the valet, looked tired and somewhat tatty in a threadbare jacket and fraying neckscarf.’
    • ‘It's all very well saying that a worn and tatty book got that way because it's been well used, and continues to be well used, but they don't look good on my new shelves.’
    • ‘These are the scruffy, barefoot, rag-tag, tatty little street urchins of the night that come out of their hiding spots once downtown Rangoon is deserted.’
    • ‘These include banning sportswear and tatty jeans, more bouncers, an orderly queuing system, better foyer lighting, a strict ID policy and training bar staff to refuse to serve drunks and eject rowdy customers.’
    shabby, well worn, worn out, worn to shreds, threadbare, tattered, in tatters, in ribbons, in rags, in holes, holey, falling to pieces, falling apart at the seams, ragged, frayed, patched, moth-eaten, faded, seedy, shoddy, sorry, scruffy, dilapidated, crumbling, broken-down, run down, tumbledown, decrepit, deteriorated, on its last legs, having seen better days, time-worn
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Of poor quality.
      ‘his gap-toothed smile and tatty haircut’
      • ‘There are, I concede, more deserving causes than ‘hack forced to eat sub-standard food in tatty restaurant at someone else's expense’.’
      • ‘The tents which are dotted about, range from top mountaineering quality to tatty improvised structures made of bamboo and straw.’
      • ‘Tweed, tatty hair-cuts, lots of comb-overs, ruddy cheeks, red fleshy ears and the most enormous blue velour rosettes abound.’
      substandard, below standard, below par, bad, deficient, defective, faulty, imperfect, inferior, mediocre
      View synonyms


Early 16th century (originally Scots, in the sense tangled, matted, shaggy): apparently ultimately related to Old English tættec rag of Germanic origin; compare with tattered.