: cheap or trivial of its kind : petty, small-time, two-bit
Did You Know?
Tin has never commanded as much respect as some other metals. As a reflection of this, its name has long been used in terms denoting the tawdry or petty. "Tin-pot" has been used for minor or insignificant things or people since the early 1800s. "Tinhorn" has named fakes or frauds (especially gamblers) since the 1880s, and "tin lizzie" has been a nickname for an inexpensive car since Ford introduced the Model T. Another example is "tin pan" (as in "Tin Pan Alley"), which referred to the tinny sound of pianos pounded furiously by musicians plugging tunes to producers.
Petty despots and tin-pot tyrants often pay lip service to democratic ideals to give their regimes an aura of legitimacy.
"Despots throughout history have been attracted to colossal buildings, from Nicolae Ceausescu's Palace of the People in Bucharest to tin-pot dictator Félix Houphouët-Boigny's vast (and ridiculous) basilica in the jungles of Ivory Coast." -- From Toby A. H. Wilkinson's 2011 book The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt
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