Shady vs. shifty


Senior Member
Chinese - Hong Kong
Call to police: These two guys have been loitering in my neighborhood for a long time and they look "shady" or "shifty". Probably they want to break into someone's home and steal something. Could you come to investigate?

Are they both correct? If so, which is better in this situation? Thank you.
  • PaulQ

    English - England
    Either could be used. "Shady" and "shifty" both fall into the category of "suspicious"; both are subjective and both would, perhaps, cause the police to arrive depending upon how busy they are and how much the further description excites the police.


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Probably in your sentence I'd go with "shady". They do have somewhat different connotations. My feeling about "shifty" is that it has to do with someone who is hard to pin down and is involved in dishonest dealings. On the other hand, "shady" sounds like someone who does things surreptitiously or in the cover of darkness - hidden.

    Obviously there would be some overlap.

    If you run across "shady" in rap music it might have even greater differences in meaning.
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