General English

  • adjective holding firmly


  • adjective closely or firmly fitting or put together
  • adverb closely or firmly, with no air leaks


  • adjective which is controlled, which does not allow any movement


  • suffix
    (written as -tight)
    which prevents something getting in


  • An estimate that does not allow for contingencies and that has no slack.


  • adjective restricted, strict or not allowing any movement or extra time
  • adjective closely set with very little spacing


  • adjective mean, stingy, miserly. Now a common colloquialism rather than slang, this usage originated in the USA in the early 19th century. The image evoked is of someone who is ‘tight-fisted’. A modern elaboration is tight-arsed.
  • adjective tipsy or drunk. The word was first used in this sense in the USA in 1843, being adopted almost immediately in Britain. The word evokes someone full of or bulging with alcoholic liquid.
  • adjective excellent, skilful. A generalisation of the use of the term from musicians’ jargon, in which it signifies closely co-ordinated. In this sense tight has become a vogue word since 2000.
  • adjective unfair, harsh. A fashionable usage among some adolescents since 2000.


  • used to describe a wine that is still young and underdeveloped without the full body or structure of a mature wine

Origin & History of “tight”

Tight originally meant ‘dense’ (‘His squire rode all night in a wood that was full tight’, Torrent of Portugal 1435). It appears to have been an alteration of an earlier thight ‘dense, thickset’, which was borrowed from Old Norse théttr ‘watertight, dense’. And this, like German and Dutch dicht ‘dense, close’, came from a prehistoric Germanic *thingkhtaz, whose other relatives include Lithuanian tankus ‘thick, standing close together’, Irish contēcim ‘coagulate’, and Sanskrit tañc- ‘contract’. The sense ‘firmly fixed’ developed in the 16th century, ‘drunk’ in the 19th century.