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Nitty-gritty is an American word, though its exact origin is up for debate. We will look at the definition of the term nitty-gritty, some theories of its origin and some examples of its use in sentences.

Nitty-gritty means the essential core of a matter, the most vital details of a situation, the most practical part of something. There is a story that the term nitty-gritty originated in the time of slave ships, that the term referred to the detritus left in the bottom of a slave ship hold. This is almost certainly not true. Another theory states that nitty-gritty is somehow related to the nits of fleas and to grits, a type of corn meal popular in the American South. This is also almost certainly not true. The term nitty-gritty cannot be traced any farther back than the 1930s, with the song That Nitty Gritty Dance by Arthur Harrington Gibbs. It seems that the word nitty-gritty came out of the African-American culture, perhaps carrying a salacious meaning before it became a mainstream term in the 1960s. Nitty-gritty is a hyphenated compound word, which is a word consisting of two words joined together to form a new meaning. It is also a reduplication, which is a term consisting of rhyming words.


Mayors deal with the nitty-gritty of government, and Corbett says the job is about solving problems rather than advancing a partisan agenda. (The Des Moines Register)

The funny, eccentric, kind-hearted actress spoke openly on subjects ranging from addiction and mental health, to the nitty-gritty details of past love affairs. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Quite simply, that isn’t going to happen if Goldberg and Lesnar are still around when the Rumble starts to get down to the nitty-gritty, which is precisely why they must be eliminated from the match early on. (Forbes Magazine)