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

Performed by Jeff Hiller with deliberate tinsel-bright energy and emphasis, the 90-minute monologue is set in Palm Springs on the evening before a gay couple’s wedding. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "Too much monotone in ‘Bright Colors’ at Studio Theatre," 15 July 2019 The Best Lifetime Movies: Christmas Lifetime movies and Christmastime go together like trees and tinsel. Rebekah Lowin, Country Living, "The Best Lifetime Channel Movies for Superfans," 21 May 2019 Along with getting rid of the tinsel-teeth effect of metal fillings, the new fillings are quicker to cure while still showing up in dental X-Rays. Molly Korzenowski, Twin Cities, "10 Minnesota innovations we can’t live without," 8 June 2019 Bits of tinsel also appeared on the jacket, creating a feathery effect. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Gigi Hadid Wore White Lashes to the Met Gala 2019," 7 May 2019 Cat owners, leave the long strands of tinsel in the box. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "5 Holiday Plants That Are Way More Toxic Than Poinsettias to Cats and Dogs," 14 Dec. 2018 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

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

19 Jul 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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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