Are you sporting a dodgy haircut or living in a dodgy neighbourhood? Tim Bowen throws us an illuminating dodgeball with this Word of the week.

The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners gives the main meaning of dodgy as ‘dishonest, criminal or not reliable’. It may be related to the verb dodge, meaning ‘avoid’, and implies dodging, or avoiding the law, as the Artful Dodger did in Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. Examples of its use might be ‘Don’t buy anything from him; he’s a bit dodgy’ and ‘That shop has got a reputation for selling dodgy goods’.

It can also mean ‘not operating correctly’, as in ‘My car’s got a dodgy gearbox’ and ‘Smith’s got a dodgy knee and will miss the match on Saturday’. A third meaning is ‘risky’ or ‘dangerous’. For example, ‘I’m not walking through there. It looks a bit dodgy’. Finally, it is often used in informal British English to describe something of poor quality, especially if it’s also amusing, as in ‘That’s a dodgy haircut you’ve got there, Dave’ or ‘That’s a dodgy-looking t-shirt if I ever saw one’.