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[not-ee] /ˈnɒt i/
adjective, knottier, knottiest.
having knots; full of knots:
a knotty piece of wood.
involved, intricate, or difficult:
a knotty problem.
Origin of knotty
1200-50; Middle English cnotti. See knot1, -y1
Related forms
knottily, adverb
knottiness, noun
unknotty, adjective
2. complex, complicated. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for knotty
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Descending by means of a knotty young tree which previous visitors have let down, we find ourselves on a floor of ice.

    The Columbia River William Denison Lyman
  • The Sun reported this answer to his council, who debated the question, which was knotty.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • The base is compressed and very smooth, not knotty as in the stag.

    Lachesis Lapponica Carl von Linn
  • Its bark is more rough and knotty than that of the palm-tree.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • Their obscure and knotty language only serves to give peculiar 419 brilliancy to the not uncommon passages of noble perspicacity.

  • He had always meant to settle for himself that knotty question.

    A Son of Hagar Sir Hall Caine
  • "I want the right thing to be done," he replied slowly, as if deliberating on a knotty point.

    Mrs. Thompson William Babington Maxwell
  • "Yes, that's it," muttered the other, in the tone of a man who was tired of a knotty problem.

    The Fortunes Of Glencore Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for knotty


adjective -tier, -tiest
(of wood, rope, etc) full of or characterized by knots
extremely difficult or intricate
Derived Forms
knottily, adverb
knottiness, noun
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
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Word Origin and History for knotty

mid-13c. (figurative use early 13c.), from knot (n.) + -y (2). Related: Knottiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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