I am looking for a possible positive form of unkempt.

  • My first choice was kempt.

But I am not convinced of its usage. I want to be double sure that kempt has survived in day-to-day usage.

  • I wouldn't do it, unless you were trying to be humorous. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Jim Apr 17 '15 at 18:17
  • 3
    I certainly use "kempt" in a humorous sense. But then I also say "three boding" or "five boding", if "foreboding" doesn't quite fit. – Hot Licks Apr 17 '15 at 18:42
  • Relevant. – Parthian Shot Apr 19 '15 at 9:39

In my experience, Americans only use kempt when they’re trying to be cute. (Cf. Jim’s prior reply.) I’d opt for a more common antonym like neat or tidy.

  • As an American myself and speaking purely from my own experience I have never even heard of the single word "kempt" until reading this post! Though I do recognize and have used the word "unkempt" albeit not often. – slyfin Apr 17 '15 at 19:09

A rare word after c. 1500; any modern use probably is a whimsical back-formation from unkempt. (etymology.com)

From the fusing of un- “not” with kempt “neat” comes the adjective unkempt. Kempt has fallen out of use, but unkempt persists as a popular word to describe anything unpolished, rough, or disorderly. (vocabulary.com)

Some alternatives:

  • neat, tidy, orderly, groomed, etc.

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