According to the dictionary definitions:

having everything ordered and arranged in the right place, or liking to keep things like this.

tidy, with everything in its place.

Please let me know how the following sentences differ in meaning?

1) She likes everything neat and tidy.

2) - Your house is always very clean and tidy. How do you manage it?
- Your house is always very clean and neat. How do you manage it?

3) - My roommate is not very tidy.
- My roommate is not very neat.

I think they both mean the same thing and "tidy" is a subset of "neat". In the manner that something that is "neat" can be "tidy" too, but something that is tidy cannot always be neat. However, I cannot understand their true meanings.


In the ordinary description you'd say they were synonyms, but to delve a little into their history:

  • neat is originally from French net (clean) and has a sense of "unadulterated", "elegant", "well proportioned". In the US (I'd guess in 50s) it has the sense of "cool" ("a neat car", "a neat piece of machinery.")

  • tidy is originally from Old English tid (time) and has a sense of "timely", "ordered", "good". Still in Scotland you'll hear "a tidy sum" = "a good amount of money", "a tidy step" = "good healthy distance".

In UK we very frequently use neat and tidy as a phrase just for emphasis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.