Intermediate+ Word of the Day: filth

filth (noun) /fɪlθ/ LISTEN

Filth is disgusting dirt or refuse, any foul matter or, more broadly, foul conditions. Figuratively, any moral impurity, obscenity or corruption can be called filth, as can vulgarity or any obscene language. If you say someone is filth, then you definitely don’t like them—in fact, you think they’re disgusting.

Example sentences

  • People hadn't been picking up after their dogs and the sidewalks were covered in filth.
  • Their house is so dirty; I don't know how anyone can live in such filth.
  • The priest warned his congregation against the filth of sin.
  • The teenager started swearing and I was shocked to hear the filth that came out of her mouth.
  • I never want to speak to you again; you're filth!

In pop culture

In UK English, the filth is a slang term for the police. The 2013 movie Filth, based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, about a corrupt and depraved police officer in Edinburgh, Scotland, plays on both this meaning of filth and the morally impure meaning. You can see the trailer for the movie here:

(Be warned, it is a little explicit in places.)

Did you know?

In some dialects, in both the US and the UK, filth means ‘weeds,’ but this meaning is now dated.

Other forms

filthy (adjective), filthily (adverb)


Filth dates back to before the year 1000, in the form of the Old English noun fȳlð (fylth, which is how it was spelled in Middle English), which meant ‘uncleanliness,’ ‘impurity’ or ‘foulness.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic fulitho, a noun derived from the Proto-Germanic adjective root ful- or fulo-, from the Proto-Indo-European root pu– (to rot or decay). It is related to the Old Saxon fulitha, the Dutch vuilte and the Old High German fulida (all meaning ‘filth’), as well as the Old Saxon and Old Frisian ful, the Middle Dutch voul, the Dutch vuil, the Old High German fül, the German faul and the Gothic füls, all meaning ‘foul,’ and of course the English word foul.

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