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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
a thorny/knotty problem (=difficult)
▪ He still faced the thorny problem of finding a way out of the jungle.
▪ I have had many letters from knitters asking for help with knotty problems.
▪ Flying is at the heart of this knotty problem.
▪ And in fact patient research has gone a long way towards resolving this knotty problem.
▪ Night after night, all over the country, ordinary married couples must be wrestling with exactly this sort of knotty problem.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Knotty \Knot"ty\, a. [Compar. Knottier; superl. Knottiest.]

  1. Full of knots; knotted; having many knots; as, knotty timber; a knotty rope.

  2. Hard; rugged; as, a knotty head. [R.]

  3. Difficult; intricate; perplexed.

    A knotty point to which we now proceed

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

mid-13c. (figurative use early 13c.), from knot (n.) + -y (2). Related: Knottiness.


a. 1 Full of knots. 2 complicated or tricky; complex; difficult.

  1. adj. making great mental demands; hard to comprehend or solve; "a baffling problem"; "I faced the knotty problem of what to have for breakfast"; "a problematic situation at home" [syn: baffling, problematic, problematical]

  2. used of old persons or old trees; covered with knobs or knots; "gnarled and knotted hands"; "a knobbed stick" [syn: gnarled, gnarly, knotted, knobbed]

  3. highly involved or intricate; "the Byzantine tax structure"; "convoluted legal language"; "convoluted reasoning"; "intricate needlework"; "an intricate labyrinth of refined phraseology"; "the plot was too involved"; "a knotty problem"; "got his way by labyrinthine maneuvering"; "Oh, what a tangled web we weave"- Sir Walter Scott; "tortuous legal procedures"; "tortuous negotiations lasting for months" [syn: Byzantine, convoluted, intricate, involved, labyrinthine, tangled, tortuous]

  4. [also: knottiest, knottier]


The game of knotty is a Scottish team sport. It is a variation of the game of shinty as played in the fishing communities of Lybster, Caithness. It used to be played widely in the town, as was shinty in the rest of Caithness, but it ceased to be played around the end of the 19th century, until 1993 when it was revived by local enthusiasts.

It involves a stick (knotty), which can be almost any form of wooden implement, and a cork fishing float as ball with varying sizes of players. Local history books suggest knotty was invented by the fishing wives of Lybster – once one of the Europe's busiest herring ports – to help keep their men sober when they were ashore. However, whilst this would have been a fine side effect of the game, the sport draws from the same prevalence of stick-ball games throughout Scotland at that time, many of which became codified into shinty in other areas.

With the rundown of the industry in the late 19th century, knotty fell into abeyance until local hotelier, the late Bert Mowat, found a copy containing the few rules of the sport wedged between the pages of a Gaelic bible in a bedroom.

Usage examples of "knotty".

The bruised leaves applied externally will serve to soften hard breasts early in lactation, and to resolve the glands in nursing, when they become knotty and painful, with a threatened abscess.

The church was of the considerate old-fashioned order, with deaf square pews, permitting the mind to abstract itself from the sermon, or wrestle at leisure with the difficulties presented by the preacher, as General Ople often did, feeling not a little in love with his sincere attentiveness for grappling with the knotty point and partially allowing the struggle to be seen.

For all these knotty points see the seventeenth book of my Fundamentals of Sexology or the Love Passion which Doctor L.

It is readily distinguished under the form of a soft, doughy, compressible, knotty, and unequal enlargement of the veins, and a tumid condition of the adjacent parts.

Her skin was speckled with color: pale brown maculae, patches of rose and white, knotty blue veins, crusty places where healing cuts formed fiery lines of red.

When taken by healthy provers in varying quantities to test its toxic effects the plant has caused distension of the whole abdomen, especially on the right side, with tenderness on pressure over the liver, and with a deficiency of bile in hard knotty stools, the colouring matter of the faeces being found by chemical tests present in the urine: so that a preparation of this Thistle modified in strength, and considerably diluted in its doses proves truly homoeopathic to simple obstructive jaundice through inaction of the liver, and readily cures the disorder.

The scoutmaster had asked him to keep close at his heels, for since Seth had acquired more or less of a fund of swamp lore from the man who trapped muskrats for their pelts, in the fall and winter, if any knotty problems came up to be solved the chances were Seth would be of more use than any one of the other fellows.

To Adams, as he explained to Abigail, there were two especially knotty problems: If a confederation should take place, one great question is how shall we vote?

To solve these knotty points I shall choose for analysis the culture myths of the Algonkins, the Iroquois, the Toltecs of Mexico, and the Aymaras or Peruvians, guided in my choice by the fact that these four families are the best known, and, in many points of view, the most important on the continent.

Everything-the soft, interwoven masses of bladderweed and the transparent, hydrogen-filled bladders that swelled at their fringes, the knotty mats of black grass, froths of algae and elaborate nests of ferns-was sopping wet.

Everythingthe soft, interwoven masses of bladderweed and the transparent, hydrogen-filled bladders that swelled at their fringes, the knotty mats of black grass, froths of algae and elaborate nests of fernswas sopping-wet.

Another develops a special faculty for unraveling knotty questions in matters of real estate, and, if a title is to be proved, or a deed annulled, he is the preferred counselor.

From Six Mile Point, Flathouse, Nine Mile Stone follow the footpeople with knotty sticks, hayforks, salmongaffs, lassos, flockmasters with stockwhips, bearbaiters with tomtoms, toreadors with bullswords, greynegroes waving torches.

The Kanten was folding and unfolding the short knotty tentacles that served as his feet.

The other young man, whom Elven had first seen driving the cattle and who answered to the name of Kors, now brought armfuls of knotty wood, which he fed to the meager fire, so that it crackled up in rich yellows and reds.