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Creepy is a word that sounds horrible which is defined as "as of things crawling on one's skin". Though I heard people say "that kid is creepy" when I at least don't think that kid is horrible. It looks like the kid is just a little too annoying and behave a little differently.

Then I looked up its definition other than the horrible meaning. I say other than the horrible meaning because I understand that part but I don't believe people describe a kid as horrible or scary in real world.

The American Heritage Dictionary shows:

Annoyingly unpleasant; repulsive:
e.g. the creepy kids next door.

The Merriam-Webster shows:

of, relating to, or being a creep : annoyingly unpleasant
e.g. a creepy old man

The Oxford Advanced Learner shows:

strange in a way that makes you feel nervous
SYNONYM spooky
e.g. That guy is just creepy.
e.g. a creepy little man with a nervous tic

See the definitions above. I don't understand what action of a kid can be understand as creepy. First of all, I really don't think a kid in real word (other than those google images) can make you feel horrible and scary. Then the "annoyingly unpleasant" definition in AHD and MW just sounds like naughty, because kids always make you unpleasant because they are too annoying. But it isn't a bad thing at all. The Oxford definition of "strange in a way that makes you feel nervous" is too vague. My exam is also strange in a way that makes me feel nervous (which definitely not fit here).

If I describe a annoying or too naughty kid as creepy, is it too strong? In this case, I should avoid it. But I also would like to know what actions can be or when it is proper to describe him as creepy (maybe not in front of his parents).

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2 Answers 2

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The word creep is only applied to a person in informal English: as such it's a lot more difficult to pin down exactly what it means, and I feel that the word is more widely used in the US than in the UK.

For me (UK) creepy relates to something that you find disturbing, but you can't quite put your finger on why... for example, if you notice that somebody that you don't know is staring at you. The person is not doing anything wrong by staring at you, but you nonetheless find it unsettling. It's more about what you feel than about what they do.

An annoying or naughty child would not, in my opinion, justify the word creepy: their behaviour would have to involve something rather more sinister to justify the word.

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  • Thanks for the explanation, I feel my understanding is pretty close to yours. Though I'm in US now, maybe US softened the word a little bit, which I'm not sure. My guess is that, maybe it looks like the kid is trying to do something wrong (say, hiding weed). Not something that bad in movies, but something not very acceptable in daily life?
    – Frank Mi
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 23:13
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    Remember that it's about the way the kid makes you feel. If the kid were hiding weed, would that make you feel uncomfortable? It wouldn't bother me: it would have to be something that the kid did in relation to me, for example staring or hanging around near my house.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 23:23
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US English

When I hear someone say "that kid is creepy," they're almost always talking about a character in a horror story. This page describes some of the ways that a "creepy kid" in a horror story might act.

It looks like the kid is just a little too annoying and behave a little differently.

To some people, a kid who acts differently can be scary. Although I can't find direct examples of it, I could imagine someone using the word "creepy" to describe a real-life kid who acts differently.

Here's an indirect example. In the play All in a Row, most of the characters are played by actors. However, the creators of the play decided that one character—an autistic kid—should be represented by a puppet. The way they designed the puppet made it look a little creepy. An old design for the puppet looked very creepy. Someone who uses a creepy puppet to represent a kid who acts differently might also use the word "creepy" to describe that kid. You can learn more from this article. (Warning: there are creepy images in the article.)

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