What adjective best describes the weariness and disarrangement that starts to show in your toothbrush when you've used it for some time? Nothing severe; just a little out of shape:

enter image description here

It doesn't have to be exclusively applicable to brushes.

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    @sumelic I think a more specific context will narrow down possible good answers. :) – Færd Feb 5 '16 at 5:12
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    I'd probably just use "worn" – James Webster Feb 5 '16 at 16:02
  • Not sure about toothbrushes but when I thought the question was going to be about paintbrushes I was thinking possibly ragged. Or bent? – shawnt00 Feb 5 '16 at 16:07
  • @shawnt00: For paintbrushes, I would've suggested "stiff", as they tend to get that way after use due to paint that sticks to the bristles becoming harder to clean out over time. Doesn't really work for a toothbrush though. – Darrel Hoffman Feb 5 '16 at 19:37
  • That condition is sometimes described as "haywire". (Yes, I know that "haywire" has a contradictory definition, but the "crazy" definition combined with the hay imagery works pretty well, for some cases.) – Hot Licks Feb 5 '16 at 22:05


(of cloth) with threads in it that are starting to come apart

(Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

"It is not very good for your teeth once the bristles are bent or frayed in any direction."

("How to Reuse Old Toothbrushes" at WikiHow)

Google image search for: frayed toothbrush

Note: This adjective seems to be more commonly applied to the bristles than to the brush itself. For example, the image in the question could be called "an old toothbrush with frayed bristles."

Another more general adjective that people often use to describe brushes like these is worn (or worn out, worn down):

(of a thing) damaged or thinner than normal because it is old and has been used a lot

(Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

A worn-down and frayed toothbrush can't clean your teeth as well.

("Tooth Brushing Techniques For Whiter Teeth," by Rebecca Desfosse, from the "Colgate Oral Care Center")

Lastly, a term I used while researching this question: old. With something like a toothbrush that deteriorates over time, the adjective old generally implies lower quality. This connotation is less strong for some other things such as wine that are considered to improve with age.

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  • +1 for worn, but i don't think frayed applies to a tooth brush. – Jordan.J.D Feb 5 '16 at 21:45
  • +1, worn was the first thing I thought of, but frayed bristles is even better. – DCShannon Feb 5 '16 at 23:13

I would call that toothbrush 'frazzled', or 'frazzled out', depending on how much of a colloquial tone I wanted--'frazzled out' being the more colloquial.

'Frazzled' is the adjective formed from the past participle of 'to frazzle':

fraz·zle (frăz′əl) Informal
v. fraz·zled, fraz·zling, fraz·zles
1. To wear away along the edges; fray.

[American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. S.v. "frazzled." Retrieved February 5 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/frazzled ]

American Heritage offers this speculation about the origins of 'frazzle':

[Perhaps a blend of fray and dialectal fazzle, to unravel (from Middle English facelyn, to fray, from fasel, frayed edge, probably diminutive of fas, rootlets, from Old English fæs).]

(op. cit.)

Here are some contemporary examples of the term in use:

On the counter was his frazzled toothbrush, while the soap had slipped into the sink.

(From "Welcoming Death", by Jake Teeny, in the January/February 2016 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Emphasis mine.)

In order to earn pocket money, the girl has spent many past summers hunched over the bathtub with a frazzled toothbrush.

(From "Dead Hens for Broken Eggs", by Sara Baume, published Mon., Dec. 28, 2015, in The Irish Times. Emphasis mine.)

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  • "Frazzled" isn't bad, but "frazzled out" sounds crazy. – DCShannon Feb 5 '16 at 23:14

Consider threadbare

  1. (Of cloth, clothing, or soft furnishings) becoming thin and tattered with age

  2. (Of a person, building, or room) poor or shabby in appearance


I would also suggest worn-out[ODO sense 2] which is applicable for toiletries (toothbrush, shaving brush, razor etc..), clothing or furniture but may not be for gradually rearranged class room chairs.

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A slightly lighthearted word for this situation is dishevelled (def. 2).

My toothbrush has become dishevelled.

From Wiktionary:


  1. (of a person) With the hair uncombed.
  2. (by extension) Disorderly or untidy in appearance.


  • messy, scraggly, tousled, unkempt, untidy
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  • If you have quoted from a dictionary or other source, please make sure that the source is seen in the answer (as well as being available in a link, if applicable). Links can disappear and accurate and permanent citation is important. See the other answers here for how they do it. – Andrew Leach Feb 5 '16 at 19:42
  • @AndrewLeach Did you actually follow the link and compare that page to my answer? Or are you simply complaining that I didn't put it in quote code? Please be clear. Your message is what I have written in the past on link-only answers. – CJ Dennis Feb 5 '16 at 21:09
  • @CJDennis: You don't need to use quote code; you can use normal quotation marks as well (I'm not sure why you'd want to) but it should certainly be clear which parts of your answer are taken from someone else. What Andrew Leach means is that the current policy is to include a textual attribution of the source, in addition to a link. I learned about this policy from this meta post: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/4973/… – herisson Feb 5 '16 at 21:52

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