tin·​sel | \ ˈtin(t)-səl 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 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

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 Choose between tinsel, natural, or even gilded options. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "Christmas Tree Shops Just Released Its Holiday Decor and We Want Everything," 13 Oct. 2018 For women, talent is often ignored if there's too much tinsel. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lady Gaga Didn't Need A Star Is Born to Be Taken Seriously," 28 Sep. 2018 All the tinsel and commercialism may be distasteful: The excessive and superrich food and drink; the fatigue leading to a really bad cold; the sense of nameless disappointment. Harper's BAZAAR, "How To Cope With Holiday Loneliness," 25 Dec. 2014 The entire villa was covered in gold tinsel with gold balloons, lights, silverware, plates, candles, et cetera. Alexandra Macon, Vogue, "Inside a Greenery-Filled Hawaiian Wedding—Where the Bridesmaids Wore Power Suits," 13 July 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

20 Dec 2018

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 \

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

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involving abstract or general statements

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