General English

  • adjective nervous and angry


  • adjective tense, repressed, humourless, unrelaxed. A black slang term which is probably in origin a short form of ‘wound-up tight’ or ‘screwed-up tight’. The term was adopted into the hippy vocabulary to express the unliberated, repressed characteristics of straight society, particularly the authority figures thereof. Since the early 1970s uptight has passed into (mainly middle-class) colloquial usage, although by the late 1980s it had begun to sound rather dated.
  • adjective satisfactory, in good order. In black American street-talk the expression retains a second, rare and positive connotation, possibly deriving from ‘locked-up tight’, meaning fixed, settled, under control or, alternatively and more probably, from a sexual sense of being ‘coupled’ or ‘snuggled-up tight’.