tin·​sel | \ ˈtin(t)-səl also ˈtin-zəl How to pronounce tinsel (audio) \

Definition of tinsel

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : threads, strips, or sheets of metal, paper, or plastic used to produce a glittering and sparkling appearance in fabrics, yarns, or decorations
2 : something superficially attractive or glamorous but of little real worth disfigured by no gaudy tinsel of rhetoric or declamation— Thomas Jefferson



Definition of tinsel (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : made of or covered with tinsel
2a : cheaply gaudy : tawdry
b : specious, superficial tinsel promises


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

Definition of tinsel (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

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

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Synonyms for tinsel

Synonyms: Noun

candyfloss [British], cotton candy, eye candy

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Examples of tinsel in a Sentence


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: Noun

While on tour in Poland, the entertainer wore a gold tinsel head covering and strutted down her hotel hallway with full force. Vogue, "The 17 Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week: Diplo Wears Overalls, Erykah Badu Struts, and More," 30 Mar. 2019 For a festive food gift, dress up your loaf with a strip of parchment paper, tinsel, and vintage ornaments. Taylor Murray, Country Living, "Gingerbread Pear Loaf," 7 Dec. 2018 Theatergoers flocked to Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers after the show, where they were greeted by an indulgence of tinsel, glitter, and sequins (both in terms of the party decorations and the outfits on display). Keaton Bell, Vogue, "Kimye, Adam Rippon, Tina Fey, and More Came Out for The Cher Show’s Opening Night," 4 Dec. 2018 Partygoers Michael Kors, Martha Stewart, and more snacked on plush lobster rolls, burgers, and warm cookies under a gold tinsel ceiling while sipping on bubbly Champagne. Lauren Sanchez, Vogue, "Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda Make Dreams Come True at a Special Screening of Mary Poppins Returns," 18 Dec. 2018 Prince George, Prince Charlotte, and Prince Louis) won't be missing out on the opportunity to bedazzle a fresh fir with ornaments and tinsel. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "How the Royal Family Decorates Buckingham Palace for Christmas," 5 Dec. 2018 That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Madonna Responds To Backlash Against Her Aretha Franklin Tribute at the VMAs," 21 Aug. 2018 Below, a few tips for setting a festive scene without getting your tinsel in a tangle. Plus, some gift suggestions for the consummate entertainer in your life—even if that happens to be you. Vogue, "Day 10: Entertain With Ease," 12 Nov. 2018 The custom bookshelves are mahogany, the burlap-and-tinsel chandelier is by Sean Daly, and the rug is by Society Limonta. Rima Suqi, ELLE Decor, "How an Abandoned Texas Home Is Restored Into an Ethereal Country Getaway," 20 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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, "Must-see Bay Area photography exhibitions in March," 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, "My Rome: Still a Classic Beauty," 1 June 2017

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

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First Known Use of tinsel


1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tinsel


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

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Statistics for tinsel

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tinsel

The first known use of tinsel was in 1538

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More Definitions for tinsel



English Language Learners Definition of tinsel

: thin strips of shiny metal or paper that are used as decoration
: something that seems attractive or appealing but is of little worth


tin·​sel | \ ˈtin-səl How to pronounce tinsel (audio) \

Kids Definition of tinsel

1 : a thread or strip of metal or plastic used for decoration
2 : something that seems attractive but is of little worth

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More from Merriam-Webster on tinsel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tinsel

Spanish Central: Translation of tinsel

Nglish: Translation of tinsel for Spanish Speakers

Comments on tinsel

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


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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