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plural dress-ups
: 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
: 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

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dressed up; dressing up; dresses up

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to get dressed up

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
Cassie also frequently praises Fine’s parenting on social media, and shares peeks into his girl-dad duties — which include everything from princess dress-up sessions and Spice Girls dance parties to skating lessons and tropical family vacations. Bailey Richards, Peoplemag, 22 May 2024 But with the nation fighting an actual war, who would want to play dress-up as a soldier? The movement left a legacy, though. Jon Grinspan, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Apr. 2024
The soft, drapey material is figure-flattering and keeps you cool on hot days, but can be dressed up with the right shoes and a cropped blazer when needed. Jean Chen Smith, Travel + Leisure, 9 June 2024 On Thursday, June 6, the DJ and heiress, 43, posted a TikTok of her 16-month-old son Phoenix Reum all dressed up in designer clothing, from his bucket hat to his overalls. Emma Aerin Becker, Peoplemag, 7 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for dress-up 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dress-up.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



from the phrasal verb dress up

First Known Use


1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

Time Traveler
The first known use of dress-up was circa 1513

Dictionary Entries Near dress-up

Cite this Entry

“Dress-up.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dress-up. Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

dress up

: to put on one's best or formal clothes
: to put on strange or fancy clothes
dress up for Halloween
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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