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  1. torn to tatters; ragged: a tattered flag.
  2. wearing ragged clothing: a tattered old man.

Origin of tattered

1300–50; Middle English; see tatter1 (noun), -ed3
Related formsun·tat·tered, adjective


  1. a torn piece hanging loose from the main part, as of a garment or flag.
  2. a separate torn piece; shred.
  3. tatters, torn or ragged clothing: dressed in rags and tatters.
verb (used with object)
  1. to tear or wear to tatters.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become ragged.

Origin of tatter1

1375–1425; (noun) late Middle English < Old Norse tǫturr rag, tatter; akin to Old English tætteca rag, shred; (v.) back formation from tattered
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for tattered


  1. ragged or worna tattered old book
  2. wearing ragged or torn clothingtattered refugees
  3. damaged, defeated, or in disarrayhe believes he can bring the tattered party together


  1. to make or become ragged or worn to shreds
  1. (plural) torn or ragged pieces, esp of material
  2. in tatters
    1. torn to pieces; in shreds
    2. destroyed or ruined

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Icelandic töturr rag, Old English tættec, Old High German zæter rag
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

Word Origin and History for tattered



mid-14c., "clad in slashed garments," from Old Norse toturr "rag," cognate with Old English tættec, tætteca "rag, tatter," Low German tater "tatter." The noun is attested from c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper