tatterdemalion

noun
tat·​ter·​de·​ma·​lion | \ ˌta-tər-di-ˈmāl-yən How to pronounce tatterdemalion (audio) , -ˈmal-, -ˈma-lē-ən \

Definition of tatterdemalion

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person dressed in ragged clothing : ragamuffin

tatterdemalion

adjective

Definition of tatterdemalion (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : ragged or disreputable in appearance
2 : being in a decayed state or condition : dilapidated

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Adjective

The exact origin of tatterdemalion is uncertain, but it’s probably connected to either the noun tatter ("a torn scrap or shred") or the adjective tattered ("ragged" or "wearing ragged clothes"). We do know that tatterdemalion has been used in print since the 1600s. In its first documented use in 1608, it was used as a noun (as it still can be) to refer to a person in ragged clothing - the type of person we might also call a ragamuffin. (Ragamuffin, incidentally, predates tatterdemalion in this sense. Like tatterdemalion, it may have been formed by combining a known word, rag, with a fanciful ending.) Within half a dozen years of the first appearance of tatterdemalion, it came to be used as an adjective to describe anything or anyone ragged or disreputable.

Examples of tatterdemalion in a Sentence

Adjective one of those tatterdemalion towns of the rust belt where the factories closed down decades ago
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Overhanging his outer compound wall were the only two remaining shade trees in the citadel, one a dying oak, the other a mulberry tree, and within the compound was a tatterdemalion garden, where a scrawny pomegranate tree drooped with heavy fruit. Rod Nordland, New York Times, "After 6,000 Years of Human Habitation, One Family and Lots of Mice," 10 Oct. 2017

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

First Known Use of tatterdemalion

Noun

1608, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tatterdemalion

Noun

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tatterdemalion

Time Traveler for tatterdemalion

Time Traveler

The first known use of tatterdemalion was in 1608

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about tatterdemalion

Statistics for tatterdemalion

Cite this Entry

“Tatterdemalion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tatterdemalion. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on tatterdemalion

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tatterdemalion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tatterdemalion

Comments on tatterdemalion

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

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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