\ ˈdres-ˌəp How to pronounce dress-up (audio) \
plural dress-ups

Definition of dress-up

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a time or occasion for which fancy or formal clothing is worn Miller used to favor high-necked lace blouses for dress-up and fishing hats for play.— Curry Kirkpatrick Marla feels comfiest in jeans and sweats but likes soft beiges for dress-up.People Weekly Also like their parents, children want a wardrobe that is suitable for a variety of activities: play, school and dress-up.— Andrea Skinner
2 : a game or activity (as for children) that involves dressing up in special clothing or costumes Most young children like to play dress-up, parading around the house in their dad's wing tips or smearing their mom's lipstick all over their face.— Christine Gorman Nina was petite but too muscular to wear her mother's cast-off Chanel. She was like a girl playing dress-up.— Tom Jenks I drew pictures with her and played dress-up with our mother's party gowns.— Lorene Cary So get in the spirit with these costume parties, haunted tours, pet dress-ups, … and haunted houses.Cincinnati.com

dress up

dressed up; dressing up; dresses up

Definition of dress up (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make more attractive, glamorous, or fancy dress up a plain dessert with a rich chocolate sauce
2a : to attire in best or formal clothes
b : to attire in clothes suited to a particular role
3 : to present in the most attractive or impressive light a fiasco dressed up as a triumph

intransitive verb

: to get dressed up

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for dress-up

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of dress-up in a Sentence

Verb we always like to dress up when going to parties the war was a fiasco that the administration tried to dress up as a triumph
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The boys dress up in costumes, play with toys, and generally act pretty silly. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, 2 June 2021 Some couples dress up, and others wear casual clothing. Katie Honan, WSJ, 2 June 2021 It’s that time of year when students dress up in gowns, don odd-looking hats that blow off in the slightest breeze, and listen to long speeches in uncomfortable chairs. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 31 May 2021 Finally, the Duchess of Cambridge continued to dress up, changing into a powder blue belted Catherine Walker coat. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, 27 May 2021 Together, fans take part in the contests, dress up as characters like Lord Farquaad and the Three Blind Mice, and revel in the community spirit. Rachel Simon, refinery29.com, 19 May 2021 After the two get in a fight about Chema’s family and take a few days to cool off, Clara uses this as an opportunity to swoop in, dress up as Lorenzo, and seduce Chema. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, 19 May 2021 Prog-rock sounds dress up four-minute fables rather than fueling wilder exploration. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 11 May 2021 Spectators, competitors and teams often dress up in vintage clothing while cars are adorned with paint schemes of the past. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 9 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dress-up.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of dress-up


1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1513, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for dress-up


from the phrasal verb dress up

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About dress-up

Time Traveler for dress-up

Time Traveler

The first known use of dress-up was circa 1513

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near dress-up

dress suit

dress the part

dress uniform


dress up



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dress-up

Cite this Entry

“Dress-up.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dress-up. Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!