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Word of the Day : February 11, 2013

meretricious

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adjective mair-uh-TRISH-us

Definition

1 : of or relating to a prostitute : having the nature of prostitution

2 a : tawdrily and falsely attractive

b : superficially significant : pretentious

Examples

The critic panned the book as a well-written but meretricious work with little substance beneath its veneer of forceful rhetoric and righteous indignation.

"In his hands, works by Respighi and Arvo Pärt that generally sound cheesy or meretricious-at least to this listener-suddenly seemed worthy of, if not affection, then at least respect and indulgence." - From a music review by Joshua Kosman in The San Francisco Chronicle, October 6, 2012



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.

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