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meretricious

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adjective mer·e·tri·cious \ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs\

Simple Definition of meretricious

  • : attractive in a cheap or false way

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of meretricious

  1. 1 :  of or relating to a prostitute :  having the nature of prostitution <meretricious relationships>

  2. 2 a :  tawdrily and falsely attractive <the paradise they found was a piece of meretricious trash — Carolyn See> b :  superficially significant :  pretentious <scholarly names to provide fig-leaves of respectability for meretricious but stylish books — Times Literary Supplement>

meretriciously adverb
meretriciousness noun

Did You Know?

Meretricious can be traced back to the Latin verb merēre, meaning "to earn, gain, or deserve." It shares this origin with a small group of other English words, including "merit," meritorious," and "emeritus." But, while these words can suggest some degree of honor or esteem, "meretricious" is used to suggest pretense, insincerity, and cheap or tawdry ornamentation. The Latin merēre is at the root of the Latin noun meretrix, meaning "prostitute," and its related adjective "meretricius" ("of or relating to a prostitute"). The Latin meretricius entered into English as "meretricious" in the 17th century. Shortly after being adopted, "meretricious" also began to be used to indicate things which are superficially attractive but which have little or no value or integrity.

Origin of meretricious

Latin meretricius, from meretric-, meretrix prostitute, from merēre to earn — more at merit


First Known Use: 1626

Synonym Discussion of meretricious

gaudy, tawdry, garish, flashy, meretricious mean vulgarly or cheaply showy. gaudy implies a tasteless use of overly bright, often clashing colors or excessive ornamentation <circus performers in gaudy costumes>. tawdry applies to what is at once gaudy and cheap and sleazy <tawdry saloons>. garish describes what is distressingly or offensively bright <garish neon signs>. flashy implies an effect of brilliance quickly and easily seen to be shallow or vulgar <a flashy nightclub act>. meretricious stresses falsity and may describe a tawdry show that beckons with a false allure or promise <a meretricious wasteland of casinos and bars>.

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