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tin·​sel ˈtin(t)-səl How to pronounce tinsel (audio)
 also  ˈtin-zəl
: threads, strips, or sheets of metal, paper, or plastic used to produce a glittering and sparkling appearance in fabrics, yarns, or decorations
: something superficially attractive or glamorous but of little real worth
disfigured by no gaudy tinsel of rhetoric or declamationThomas Jefferson


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: made of or covered with tinsel
: cheaply gaudy : tawdry
: specious, superficial
tinsel promises


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tinseled or tinselled; tinseling or tinselling ˈtin(t)-s(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce tinsel (audio)
 also  ˈtin-zə-liŋ

transitive verb

: to interweave, overlay, or adorn with or as if with tinsel
: to impart a specious brightness to

Examples of tinsel in a Sentence

Noun I like to decorate the Christmas tree with tinsel. He's not attracted to the tinsel and glitter of Hollywood.
Recent Examples on the Web
After all, those are the kinds of dreams that brought all of us to this crazy town of tinsel to begin with! Fake Carol, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Nov. 2023 After a brief resurgence in the '80s, the tinsel trend is back again in full force. Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, 16 Nov. 2023 Arrange small items onto the chipboard, adhere into place, then add small pieces of tinsel or garland. Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Nov. 2023 Wrap your tree in plaid ribbons in lieu of a glistening, tinsel garland, or opt for a pile of presents nestled underneath in your favorite plaid gift wrap. Cameron Beall, Southern Living, 13 Nov. 2023 The trailer is filled with Curtis’ signature feel-good, witty banter and sparkly shots of Christmas tinsel in the background. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 1 Nov. 2023 Premiering December 4, follow along as expert artists and crafters of all kinds face new challenges to master and try not to get their tinsel in a tangle. Jennifer Maas, Variety, 26 Oct. 2023 Give it a little sparkle with shimmery tinsel or garland. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 Oct. 2023 By the 1870s, the art of tinsel painting migrated to the United States. Lyndi McNulty, Baltimore Sun, 3 Sep. 2023
Among the potential hazards are tinsel on trees, as well as ribbons and string used for wrapping packages. Amy McGorry, Fox News, 25 Nov. 2023
Connor’s new prints, on the other hand, made by the industrial dye-sublimation process on aluminum, are but tinseled imitations of her own extraordinary originals. Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Mar. 2018 And while my beard has tinseled, the intervening years haven’t exactly been kind to Rome either. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 1 June 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tinsel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English tyneseyle cloth interwoven with metallic thread, probably from Anglo-French tencelé, past participle of tenceler, estenceler to sparkle — more at stencil

First Known Use


1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tinsel was in 1538

Dictionary Entries Near tinsel

Cite this Entry

“Tinsel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tinsel. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a thread, strip, or sheet of metal, paper, or plastic used to produce a glittering effect
: something that seems attractive but is of little worth

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