Both Google ngram and Cambridge Dictionary tell me that "manky" nowadays used to describe something dirty, as in it's "so old and/or used that it became dirty."

What I am curious about who you're more likely to hear this word from?

Would a granny who chastises her grandkid to wash his hands use it, or rather a teen describing shabby clothes?

Can we draw any conclusions about the education level and social status of the person using this word?

  • 6
    I think I've read the word maybe twice, in old fiction. It's not a word most in the US would know. – Hot Licks Jul 19 '19 at 12:05
  • 6
    I'm from Yorkshire, UK and this word is common and readily understood. Not for dirty hands, more for clothes or houses that may be mouldy or otherwise filthy. So manky you don't want to touch it without gloves. Or even of badly decayed teeth. – Mynamite Jul 19 '19 at 12:18
  • 2
    etymonline.com/search?q=manky British slang apparently – Mynamite Jul 19 '19 at 12:25
  • 1
    In the south of England at least it's very commonly used, but is still firmly slang. I hear and use it all the time. – AJF Jul 19 '19 at 22:33
  • 1
    "Manky" makes perfect sense to a Kiwi as well as a local Australian. Perhaps its more of an Empire word, and the US left too early to get it ? Definitely a casual word. – Criggie Jul 19 '19 at 22:42

The following extract from BBC blog gives an interesting range of possible regional usages of the term, sometime used also as a verb.


It's a regional usage. I've heard it in various parts of the north of England and up in Scotland too. It has a whole range of meanings.

  • When you hear somebody say 'my torch is all manky', it means it's not working properly, it's worthless, it's defective, it's a bit inferior. And then, I've heard people say 'oh, he's got manky socks' or 'that baby's nappy is manky' and that means it's grimy or dirty, it might even be a bit smelly - that's another usage of the term - 'bananas are manky' or 'that dustbin is manky' - it means it's rotten, it's disgusting, it's got a smell of some kind.

And it generalises from there, too, into personal feelings - if you're feeling under the weather for instance, in some parts of the country, you can say, you know, 'I feel manky today'.

And then up in Scotland especially, it's used quite nastily, as a term of abuse - you know, somebody might say 'you manky so and so', that's really quite harsh.

Very unclear origins. It certainly goes back to the 1950s, maybe before. Some people think it comes from an old French word meaning 'impaired'. I don't know. Certainly, it's been used in a wide range of constructions now.

  • I've heard it used in the phrase 'you're going to mank it up' meaning 'you're going to mess it up'. I've actually heard somebody talk about something being 'mankified'! To mankify - a verb. And then there's that northern dialect use in Yorkshire where somebody says 'I'm feeling manky', 'I'm feeling rough and unwell'. That sort of use so upset people, doctors in particular who didn't understand what it meant, that they actually decided to write a guide to Yorkshire dialect to help them out, and so there you get in this list of medical terms 'manky', feeling rough.
| improve this answer | |
  • 5
    I'm certainly familiar with it in southern England as well. I don't recall hearing it in Wales but that may say more about the company I keep there – Chris H Jul 19 '19 at 15:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.