Whether it’s pine or problems, sometimes the word knotty can apply to both. Knotty can describe something that has a lot of knots, either literally or figuratively.

The adjective knotty is a way to describe something that’s covered in knots. It can be used in a literal sense to refer to wood that is covered in hard, irregular knots — you’ve probably seen these circular, knobby imperfections that sometime appear on wood. The word can also be used figuratively to describe something that is intricate and difficult to solve, such as a knotty political problem involving two warring nations or a knotty legal issue involving complicated constitutional issues.

Definitions of knotty
  1. adjective
    tangled in knots or snarls
    synonyms: snarled, snarly
    in a confused mass
  2. adjective
    used of old persons or old trees; covered with knobs or knots
    synonyms: gnarled, gnarly, knobbed, knotted
    having or marked by bends or angles; not straight or aligned
  3. adjective
    making great mental demands; hard to comprehend or solve or believe
    “I faced the knotty problem of what to have for breakfast”
    synonyms: baffling, elusive, problematic, problematical, tough
    difficult, hard
    not easy; requiring great physical or mental effort to accomplish or comprehend or endure
  4. adjective
    highly complex or intricate and occasionally devious
    “a knotty problem”
    synonyms: Byzantine, convoluted, involved, tangled, tortuous
    complicated in structure; consisting of interconnected parts
Word Family

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