Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone, especially a young person, who has no job or permanent home, looks untidy and rejects conventional values

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun crusty (also crustie) was first used in the early 1990s. It seems to have been derived from the crust punk music scene of the 1980s. The adjective crusty comes from the noun ‘crust’ and was first used in English in the early 15th century.


The noun crusty (also crustie) came into being at the start of the 1990s to describe a subset of mostly young people leading unconventional lives. Crusties rejected the standard lifestyle of having jobs and homes, instead travelling around and living hand-to-mouth from a combination of benefits, begging and odd jobs. Crusties got their name from their unkempt appearance which was cultivated deliberately as an outward sign of their rejection of traditional values: with their rough clothing and matted, often dreadlocked hair they could certainly not be mistaken for nine-to-five office workers. Many crusties were active in the environmental movement, which perhaps explains why today’s environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion were recently inaccurately branded ‘uncooperative crusties‘. As so often happens, the intended insult was quickly adopted as a badge of pride by climate campaigners. Far from being stereotypical young, rebellious dropouts, many of these campaigners are mature and even elderly individuals, often with flourishing professional careers either currently or in the past.

Crusty is a very recent addition to the Open Dictionary. If you have any words or phrases you would like to contribute, you can submit them here.


Boris Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson has said that being branded an “uncooperative crusty” by his son was a “tremendous compliment”.

Related words

beatnik, dropout, hippie, nomad

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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