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adjective, taw·dry \ˈtȯ-drē, ˈtä-\

Simple Definition of tawdry

  • : having a cheap and ugly appearance

  • : morally low or bad

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of tawdry


  1. :  cheap and gaudy in appearance or quality; also :  ignoble <a tawdry attempt to smear his opponent>

tawdrily play \-drə-lē\ adverb
tawdriness play \-drē-nəs\ noun

Examples of tawdry in a sentence

  1. The scandal was a tawdry affair.

Did You Know?

In the 7th century, Etheldreda, the queen of Northumbria, renounced her husband and her royal position for the veil of a nun. She was renowned for her saintliness and is traditionally said to have died of a swelling in her throat, which she took as a judgment upon her fondness for wearing necklaces in her youth. Her shrine became a principal site of pilgrimage in England. An annual fair was held in her honor on October 17th, and her name became simplified to St. Audrey. At these fairs various kinds of cheap knickknacks were sold, along with a type of necklace called St. Audrey's lace, which by the 17th century had become altered to tawdry lace. Eventually, tawdry came to be used to describe anything cheap and gaudy that might be found at these fairs or anywhere else.

Origin of tawdry

tawdry lace a tie of lace for the neck, from St. Audrey (St. Etheldreda) †679 queen of Northumbria

First Known Use: 1655

Synonym Discussion of tawdry

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>.

Rhymes with tawdry



noun taw·dry

Definition of tawdry

  1. :  cheap showy finery

Circa 1680

First Known Use of tawdry

circa 1680

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marked by grandiloquent style

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