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[taw-dree] /ˈtɔ dri/
adjective, tawdrier, tawdriest.
(of finery, trappings, etc.) gaudy; showy and cheap.
low or mean; base:
tawdry motives.
cheap, gaudy apparel.
Origin of tawdry
1605-15; short for (Sain)t Audrey lace, i.e., neck lace bought at St. Audrey's Fair in Ely, England; so called after St. Audrey (Old English Aethelthrȳth, died 679), Northumbrian queen and patron saint of Ely, who, according to tradition, died of a throat tumor which she considered just punishment of her youthful liking for neck laces
Related forms
tawdrily, adverb
tawdriness, noun
untawdry, adjective
1. flashy, meretricious.
1. elegant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for tawdriness
Historical Examples
  • Gounod's music struggles nobly with the tawdriness and sentimentality of the libretto.

    The Opera R.A. Streatfeild
  • There is a tawdriness about them all, something artificial and unreal.

    The Traitors E. Phillips (Edward Phillips) Oppenheim
  • In spite of the gilded sea-horses and chariot, there is no tawdriness here; all is bold, splendid, and imposing.

    The Mediterranean T. G. (Thomas Gray) Bonney, E. A. R. Ball, H. D. Traill, Grant Allen, and Arthur Griffiths
  • In England she had borrowed the untidiness and tawdriness that degrade the English poor.

    Our House Elizabeth Robins Pennell
  • Hygiene has not passed within the Mellah's walls, but a certain amount of Western tawdriness has.

    Morocco S.L. Bensusan
  • In the midst of all the tawdriness she was a still and sacred figure—a Madonna with a child.

    The Tin Soldier Temple Bailey
  • To us it seems to bear a nearer affinity to the tawdriness of poverty, or the spasms and convulsions of weakness.

  • Hence the tawdriness which is justly alleged against much Italian literature.

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
  • The picturesque old fought a brave battle with the tinsel and tawdriness of the new.

    The Traitors E. Phillips (Edward Phillips) Oppenheim
  • I won in that moment an impression of the tawdriness of mere beauty which I have never gotten over.

    A Positive Romance Edward Bellamy
British Dictionary definitions for tawdriness


adjective -drier, -driest
cheap, showy, and of poor quality: tawdry jewellery
Derived Forms
tawdrily, adverb
tawdriness, noun
Word Origin
C16 tawdry lace, shortened and altered from Seynt Audries lace, finery sold at the fair of St Audrey (Etheldrida), 7th-century queen of Northumbria and patron saint of Ely, Cambridgeshire
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 tawdriness



"cheap, showy, gaudy," 1670s, adjective use of noun tawdry "silk necktie for women" (1610s), shortened from tawdry lace (1540s), an alteration of St. Audrey's lace, a necktie or ribbon sold at the annual fair at Ely on Oct. 17 commemorating St. Audrey (queen of Northumbria, died 679). Her association with cheap lace necklaces is that she supposedly died of a throat tumor, which she considered God's punishment for her youthful fondness for showy necklaces [Bede].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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