brum·​ma·​gem ˈbrə-mi-jəm How to pronounce brummagem (audio)
: spurious
also : cheaply showy : tawdry
a bilious combination of brummagem melodrama and synthetic seascapes John McCarten
brummagem noun

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Brummagem first appeared in the 17th century as an alteration of Birmingham, the name of a city in England. At that time Birmingham was notorious for the counterfeit coins made there, and the word brummagem quickly became associated with things forged or inauthentic. By the 19th century, Birmingham had become a chief manufacturer of cheap trinkets and gilt jewelry, and again the word brummagem followed suit—it came to describe that which is showy on the outside but essentially of low quality. Perhaps the term was something of an annoyance to the people of Birmingham way back when, but nowadays when brummagem is used (which isn't often) it's usually without any conscious reference to the British city.

Word History


alteration of Birmingham, England, the source in the 17th century of counterfeit groats

First Known Use

1679, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of brummagem was in 1679


Dictionary Entries Near brummagem

Cite this Entry

“Brummagem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

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