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[shab-ee] /ˈʃæb i/
adjective, shabbier, shabbiest.
impaired by wear, use, etc.; worn:
shabby clothes.
showing conspicuous signs of wear or neglect:
The rooms on the upper floors of the mansion had a rather shabby appearance, as if they had not been much in use of late.
wearing worn clothes or having a slovenly or unkempt appearance:
a shabby person.
run-down, seedy, or dilapidated:
a shabby hotel.
meanly ungenerous or unfair; contemptible, as persons, actions, etc.:
shabby behavior.
inferior; not up to par in quality, performance, etc.:
a shabby rendition of the sonata.
Origin of shabby
1660-70; shab (Middle English; Old English sceabb scab) + -y1; cognate with German schäbig
Related forms
shabbily, adverb
shabbiness, noun
unshabbily, adverb
unshabby, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for shabby
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Personally I was angry at the shabby trick played on the poor devil.

    In the Foreign Legion Erwin Rosen
  • He wore, indeed, a shabby greenish-gray suit, and a flannel shirt.

    The Coryston Family Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • You will get dirty, shabby frocks and slommicking dressing-gowns, such as your cook would be ashamed to wear.

    Evergreens Jerome K. Jerome
  • His clothes are shabby and neglected; he walks with a shuffling, tired movement.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • A shabby coat is not necessarily a sign that a man is hard up.

British Dictionary definitions for shabby


adjective -bier, -biest
threadbare or dilapidated in appearance
wearing worn and dirty clothes; seedy
mean, despicable, or unworthy: shabby treatment
dirty or squalid
Derived Forms
shabbily, adverb
shabbiness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Old English sceabbscab + -y1
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 shabby

1660s, of persons, "poorly dressed," with -y (2) + shab "a low fellow" (1630s), literally "scab" (now only dialectal in the literal sense, in reference to a disease of sheep), from Old English sceabb (the native form of the Scandinavian word that yielded Modern English scab; also see sh-). Cf. Middle Dutch schabbich, German schäbig "shabby."

Of clothes, furniture, etc., "of mean appearance, no longer new or fresh" from 1680s; meaning "inferior in quality" is from 1805. Figurative sense "contemptibly mean" is from 1670s. Related: Shabbily; shabbiness. Shabby-genteel "run-down but trying to keep up appearances, retaining in present shabbiness traces of former gentility," first recorded 1754. Related: Shabaroon "disreputable person," c.1700.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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