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 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

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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 The wreath was still on the door and outside the January wind was corralling tinsel and pine needles into storm drains. Bernice L. Mcfadden, Longreads, "What Didn’t Kill Her," 5 June 2020 The use of both red and yellow hackles is striking; the pattern’s flat silver tinsel adds flash and attractiveness. Mike Valla, Field & Stream, "8 Vintage Streamer Patterns for Trout and Salmon," 14 May 2020 Or a Chanel tweed jacket, whose Lurex bouclé looked too much like cheap tinsel, even from five yards away. Monica Kim, Vogue, "Is It Real—And Does It Matter? How Korea’s Counterfeit Culture Shaped My Style," 27 Aug. 2018 The trees must be free of ornaments, hooks, tinsel and tree stands. USA TODAY, "Surfing Santas, endangered red wolves, who owns the letter ‘O’?: News from around our 50 states," 28 Dec. 2019 The room was fully adorned in hot pink, from the tinsel to the balloons to the lighting. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "All the Crazy Details from Kylie Jenner’s 21st Birthday Party," 10 Aug. 2018 For a small living space or entryway, check out West Elm’s slim pop-up cone tree, which is enrobed in silver tinsel and trimmed with multicolored metallic dots. Washington Post, "Glam holiday décor that gets the party started," 12 Nov. 2019 Forget the tinsel and prepare your grievances: Festivus is officially here! Claudia Harmata, PEOPLE.com, "Happy Festivus! How Seinfeld Fans Can Celebrate the Annual Holiday Instead of Christmas," 23 Dec. 2019 The holiday gathers more and more of our emotional life and aspirations to itself, like some great giant borg of tinsel, garland, and melted candlewax. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "The Profound Loneliness of Christmas," 20 Dec. 2019 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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Time Traveler for tinsel

Time Traveler

The first known use of tinsel was in 1538

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Statistics for tinsel

Last Updated

26 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tinsel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tinsel. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for tinsel


How to pronounce tinsel (audio)

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

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