Adjective > Slovenly

Adjective – Slovenly

We’re not sure where the word “sloven” came from, but it’s been in English since the year 1475 or so.

To put it politely, the first meaning of “sloven” was “a person with no manners” or “a person with no morals.

The meaning loosened up, though, to just “slob” or “sloppy person.

And so today, slovenly things or people are those that look sloppy, dirty, untidy, or unclean.

Say it “SLOV un lee.”

Part of speech:
Adjective: “their slovenly behavior,” “their writing is slovenly.”

Other forms:
For a noun, use “slovenliness,” or the rarer but more fun-to-say “slovenry.”

Some writers have used “slovenly” as an adverb, as in “The problem was slovenly handled” or “They were dressed slovenly,” but I don’t recommend doing this–it sounds like an error.

How to use it:
This word is formal and critical.

Talk about slovenly people and characters and their slovenly clothes, hair, appearances, ways, manners, behaviors, work, writing, etc.

“Dispensing with his usual jeans and a T-shirt, he wore a skinny tie and a black suit, a costume that made him look less like a slovenly everyman than the showbiz star that he is.”
— Jason Zinoman, New York Times, 9 September 2016

“[The television show] Pulling…was pulled in 2008 after two series on the BBC, but it established Horgan’s reputation for filth. Not just pigs rutting in muck filthy, but the filth plundered from the slovenly depths of the human psyche for the sake of a laugh.”
— Nosheen Iqbal, The Guardian, 7 March 2017