mer·​e·​tri·​cious | \ ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs How to pronounce meretricious (audio) \

Definition of meretricious

1 : of or relating to a prostitute : having the nature of prostitution meretricious relationships
2a : tawdrily and falsely attractive the paradise they found was a piece of meretricious trash— Carolyn See
b : superficially (see superficial sense 2) significant : pretentious scholarly names to provide fig-leaves of respectability for meretricious but stylish booksThe Times Literary Supplement (London)

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Other Words from meretricious

meretriciously adverb
meretriciousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for meretricious

gaudy, tawdry, garish, flashy, meretricious mean vulgarly or cheaply showy. gaudy implies a tasteless use of overly bright, often clashing colors or excessive ornamentation. circus performers in gaudy costumes tawdry applies to what is at once gaudy and cheap and sleazy. tawdry saloons garish describes what is distressingly or offensively bright. garish neon signs flashy implies an effect of brilliance quickly and easily seen to be shallow or vulgar. a flashy nightclub act meretricious stresses falsity and may describe a tawdry show that beckons with a false allure or promise. a meretricious wasteland of casinos and bars

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.

Examples of meretricious in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, that’s what makes the otherwise meretricious story of Gatsby and Daisy so compelling. Washington Post, "For ‘Gatsby’ fans, 2021 will be the start of remakes. First up: ‘Nick’," 29 Dec. 2020 Still, some folks discover the secret to thwarting the meretricious allure of the evanescently contemporary. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "To read or reread? New books are alluring, but don’t discount the value of the familiar," 29 Jan. 2020 The real problem is a green unwillingness to forgo shiny, meretricious plaudits for fake gestures in place of patiently laying the groundwork for something that might actually have some value. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Electric Cars and Media Explained," 6 Nov. 2018 And that’s equally the case with the most effective sequence, which also happens to be the most meretricious. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Chappaquiddick’ Review: Tragedy Without Clarity," 5 Apr. 2018 The director Denis Villeneuve, whose Arrival was my favorite film of 2016, has advanced down Christopher Nolan’s path in setting out to make a brainy, sober blockbuster with no frivolous or meretricious aspects. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Blade Runner 2049: Dark Vision Is Not Enough," 3 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of meretricious

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for meretricious

Latin meretricius, from meretric-, meretrix prostitute, from merēre to earn — more at merit entry 1

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The first known use of meretricious was in 1626

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Cite this Entry

“Meretricious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of meretricious

formal + disapproving : attractive in a cheap or false way

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