tar·​tan | \ ˈtär-tᵊn How to pronounce tartan (audio) \

Definition of tartan

1 : a plaid textile design of Scottish origin consisting of stripes of varying width and color usually patterned to designate a distinctive clan
2a : a twilled woolen fabric with tartan design
b : a fabric with tartan design
3 : a garment of tartan design

Examples of tartan in a Sentence

a kilt in the clan's tartan

Recent Examples on the Web

The Conservatives had a strong tartan streak, albeit usually of the landowning variety. The Economist, "Leaving the EU is straining the union with Scotland," 29 June 2019 Amal wore a tartan print Prabal Gurung asymmetrical top and flared trousers from the designer's Pre-Fall '19 collection. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Amal Clooney's Boho Chic Airport Style Has Us Ready for Summer," 14 May 2019 When color photography was first introduced in 1861 with a tricolor negative photo of a tartan ribbon, the course of photographic history completely changed. Kristen Mcnicholas, National Geographic, "Your best photos of the week, March 1, 2019," 1 Mar. 2019 Shutterstock Shutterstock Duchess of Cambridge/REX/ShutterstockShutterstock Charlotte's wearing the Betsy dress by Trotters and her tartan skirt is the Yarrow skirt by Amaia Kids. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Princess Charlotte's Fourth Birthday Photos Are Here, and She Looks Identical to the Queen," 1 May 2019 Williams, on the other hand, went edgy with a black combat boots, leggings, a black coat with tartan accents, thick glasses and a handle bag. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle and Serena Williams Reunite for Dinner in NYC," 20 Feb. 2019 The eclectic effect also extended to the styling of the clothes, which included preppy tartans, marigold sweaters, sweet floral georgette dresses, and some terrific leathers and shearlings in distressed textures or juicy colors. Cathy Horyn, The Cut, "Jacobs Fights the Bulls, Kors Goes for Showbiz," 15 Feb. 2018 Kate re-wore a black watch tartan coat dress by Alexander McQueen for the occasion and, as Harper's Bazaar swiftly pointed out, the Duchess paid tribute to Princess Diana with her choice of jewelry. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Wore Princess Diana's Sapphire Earrings in Scotland," 29 Jan. 2019 Aboah art-directed the images, which included shots around the city, plus a family portrait where everyone wore custom Burberry dresses and head wraps in the brand’s signature tartan. Diana Tsui, The Cut, "Burberry Took a Trip to Ghana With Model Adwoa Aboah," 2 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tartan.' 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 tartan

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tartan

perhaps from Middle French tiretaine linsey-woolsey

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tartan

Dictionary Entries near tartan








Statistics for tartan

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tartan

The first known use of tartan was circa 1500

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tartan



English Language Learners Definition of tartan

: a traditional Scottish cloth pattern of stripes in different colors and widths that cross each other to form squares
: fabric with a tartan pattern


tar·​tan | \ ˈtär-tᵊn How to pronounce tartan (audio) \

Kids Definition of tartan

: a woolen cloth with a plaid design originally made in Scotland

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tartan

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tartan

Spanish Central: Translation of tartan

Nglish: Translation of tartan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tartan

Comments on tartan

What made you want to look up tartan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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