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[skech-ee] /ˈskɛtʃ i/
adjective, sketchier, sketchiest.
like a sketch; giving only outlines or essentials.
Synonyms: cursory, rough, meager, crude.
imperfect, incomplete, slight, or superficial:
a sketchy meal.
  1. unreliable or unsafe:
    That street looks pretty sketchy.
  2. disreputable or shady:
    I'd stay away from him; he's got a sketchy past.
Origin of sketchy
1795-1805; sketch + -y1
Related forms
sketchily, adverb
sketchiness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sketchy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He patted the dog, whose tail made a slight, sketchy motion of approval.

    The Dark Star Robert W. Chambers
  • The sketchy nephew hinted that he might have fallen off a bridge.

  • From canned goods on the shelf, baked beans and corned beef, we prepared a sketchy supper, and ate on the counter.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh Edith Eudora Kohl
  • An older child would not be content with so sketchy an account.

    Here and Now Story Book Lucy Sprague Mitchell
  • They sang 'Rule, Britannia,' in the Piazza to-day, wonderfully vague and sketchy.

    Up and Down Edward Frederic Benson
British Dictionary definitions for sketchy


adjective sketchier, sketchiest
characteristic of a sketch; existing only in outline
superficial or slight
(informal) uncertain or unreliable
Derived Forms
sketchily, adverb
sketchiness, 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 sketchy

1805, "having the form or character of a sketch," from sketch (n.) + -y (1). Colloquial sense of "unsubstantial, imperfect, flimsy" is from 1878, perhaps via the notion of "unfinished." Related: Sketchily; sketchiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for sketchy



A street derelict who may be a villain: Perp: also a mutt, a mope, a skid, or a skell

[1980s+ New York City police; ultimately fr Dutch schelm, ''scoundrel, villain,'' found in English as skelum by 1611]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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