: ragged or disreputable in appearance
: being in a decayed state or condition : dilapidated
"What he wants to do is to get the tatterdemalion main building into shape so that it can be used as a retreat for priests and laymen, perhaps with profitable results." (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post, August 15, 2007)
Did You Know?
The exact origin of "tatterdemalion" is uncertain, but its probably connected to either the noun "tatter" ("a torn scrap or shred") or the adjective "tattered" ("ragged" or "wearing ragged clothes"). We do know that "tatterdemalion" has been used in print since the 1600s. In its first documented use in 1608, it was used as a noun (as it still can be) to refer to a person in ragged clothing -- the type of person we might also call a ragamuffin. ("Ragamuffin," incidentally, predates "tatterdemalion" in this sense. Like "tatterdemalion," it may have been formed by combining a known word, "rag," with a fanciful ending.) Within half a dozen years of the first appearance of "tatterdemalion," it came to be used as an adjective to describe anything or anyone ragged or disreputable.
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