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



Definition of tatterdemalion (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Did You Know?


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


1608, in the meaning defined above


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tatterdemalion


origin unknown

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Cite this Entry

“Tatterdemalion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tatterdemalion. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

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