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[mer-i-trish-uh s] /ˌmɛr ɪˈtrɪʃ əs/
alluring by a show of flashy or vulgar attractions; tawdry.
based on pretense, deception, or insincerity.
pertaining to or characteristic of a prostitute.
Origin of meretricious
1620-30; < Latin meretrīcius of, pertaining to prostitutes, derivative of meretrīx prostitute, equivalent to mere-, stem of merēre to earn + -trīx -trix; see -ous
Related forms
meretriciously, adverb
meretriciousness, noun
unmeretricious, adjective
unmeretriciously, adverb
unmeretriciousness, noun
Can be confused
meritorious, meretricious.
1. showy, gaudy. 2. spurious, sham, false. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for meretricious
Contemporary Examples
  • Now that Laura has been revealed to be little more than a collection of notes, the debate seems silly, meretricious.

    The Nabokov Mess Nathaniel Rich November 22, 2009
Historical Examples
  • It is so beautiful that I'm dreadfully afraid it is meretricious.

    A Venetian June

    Anna Fuller
  • There is not a meretricious or humiliating book in the whole collection.

    The Greatest English Classic Cleland Boyd McAfee
  • There is nothing showy or clever, nothing cheap or meretricious in all their work.

  • She was half-angry with him in the carriage, and said something about meretricious manners.

    Barchester Towers

    Anthony Trollope
  • She fought against it from an instinctive feeling that it was meretricious.


    Frank Swinnerton
  • But then it looked insincere, meretricious, affected, and always haggard.

    The Way of Ambition Robert Hichens
  • Unlike his neighbor, Grieg, he is never mincing and meretricious.

    Musical Portraits Paul Rosenfeld
  • The meretricious melodrama did not fool them, but they delighted in its absurdities.

    The Plastic Age Percy Marks
  • meretricious ornaments and manners were necessary to attract his attention.

    Maria Mary Wollstonecraft
British Dictionary definitions for meretricious


superficially or garishly attractive
insincere: meretricious praise
(archaic) of, like, or relating to a prostitute
Derived Forms
meretriciously, adverb
meretriciousness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin merētrīcius, from merētrix prostitute, from merēre to earn money
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for meretricious

1620s, "pertaining to harlots," from Latin meretricius "of or pertaining to prostitutes," from meretrix (genitive meretricis) "prostitute," literally "woman who earns money," from merere, mereri "to earn, gain" (see merit (n.)). Meaning "gaudily alluring" is from 1630s. Related: Meretriciously; meretriciousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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