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

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 tinsel (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

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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: Noun To recycle trees, residents should remove all stands, lights, tinsel and ornaments. Sarah Bahari, Dallas News, 28 Dec. 2020 Artificial trees are not accepted, and all ornaments, tinsel and lights must be removed before drop off. Arkansas Democrat-gazette, Arkansas Online, 21 Dec. 2020 Keep dangerous ornaments such as glass and tinsel (a choking hazard) on high branches and out of their reach. San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Dec. 2020 If ribbon or tinsel protrudes from your pet’s mouth or rectum cut it off. Iris Katz, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, 19 Dec. 2020 Evergreens festooned with silver tinsel and gold baubles, bright red sweaters emblazoned with reindeers and snowflakes — Christmas and kitsch go together, and the holiday songbook is no exception to the rule. Jody Rosen, Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec. 2020 Cotton-batting ornaments included Victorian scraps for detail, along with chenille armature and perhaps tinsel. Brenda Yenke, cleveland, 24 Dec. 2020 Earlier that year while on tour, Musgraves sported a fun and festive tinsel ponytail that also lasted the relative lifespan of an Instagram Story. Megan Decker, refinery29.com, 16 Dec. 2020 Though, the league will likely have its tinsel in a tangle due to Kamara’s footwear, as his Christmas-themed custom kicks aren’t up to uniform code. Amie Just | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, 25 Dec. 2020 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, 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Tinsel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tinsel. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on tinsel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tinsel

Nglish: Translation of tinsel for Spanish Speakers


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