• Shabby is used as an adjective to describe objects, places or people. In its various contexts, shabby is defined as being worn down, tattered or of low quality. Synonyms for shabby include ratty, rickety and decrepit.

    Defining Things

    A thing can be defined as shabby when it appears worn out, moth-eaten or threadbare, such as an old chair or tattered slacks. Shabby is also defined as mediocre or of low quality, such as when describing a performance.

    Defining Places

    A place can be defined as shabby when it is dirty or worn down. A seedy motel, a dilapidated old house or a neglected, overgrown park could all be called shabby.

    Defining People

    A person can be defined as shabby when she or he appears unkempt or slovenly. Someone who treats others in a mean or an unjust manner is said to behave shabbily.


    Shabby comes from the Old English "sceabb," which evolved around 1669 to "shab," a word referring to a sheep disease. By 1754, the phrase "shabby-genteel" was in popular use to describe someone or something worn down but attempting to "keep up appearances."

    Famous Ties

    Albert Einstein famously used shabby in this quote: "If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. . . . It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it."


    Online Etymology Dictionary

    Quotes Daddy

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