1 : ragged or disreputable in appearance
2 : being in a decayed state or condition : dilapidated
Did You Know?
The exact origin of tatterdemalion is uncertain, but it's probably connected to either the noun tatter ("a torn scrap or shred") or the adjective tattered ("ragged" or "wearing ragged clothes"). We do know that tatterdemalion has been used in print since the 1600s. In its first documented use, it was a noun referring to a person in ragged clothing—the type of person we might also call a ragamuffin. (Ragamuffin, incidentally, predates tatterdemalion in this sense. Like tatterdemalion, it may have been formed by combining a known word, rag, with a fanciful ending.) Soon after the first appearance of tatterdemalion, it came to be used as an adjective to describe anything or anyone ragged or disreputable.
"ThreadBanger features episodes about making clothes and other D.I.Y. endeavors that will make you wish you could live life all over again and be a tatterdemalion steampunk kid from San Francisco." — Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times, 21 June 2009
"Layoffs in the refinery, paper mills and brewery that anchored the economy after its shipbuilding and merchant trading days ended have left many striking 19th century buildings of the compact, hilly downtown in a tatterdemalion state but have not torn its welcoming, small-town atmosphere." — Philip Hersh, The Chicago Tribune, 21 Nov. 2014
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Name That Synonym
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