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 Seeb : 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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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
First Known Use: 1626
Synonym Discussion of meretricious
MERETRICIOUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of meretricious for English Language Learners
: attractive in a cheap or false way
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