adjective mer·e·tri·cious \ ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs \

Definition of meretricious

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





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Recent Examples of meretricious from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of meretricious

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

MERETRICIOUS Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of meretricious for English Language Learners

  • : attractive in a cheap or false way

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a ridiculous act or situation

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