being an occasion, situation, etc., for which one must be somewhat formally well-dressed: the first dress-up dance of the season.


Informal. Usually dress-ups.
  1. a person's best clothes: Wear your dress-ups for the reception.
  2. accessories or other added features: a car with custom dress-ups.

Origin of dress-up

First recorded in 1665–75; noun, adj. use of verb phrase dress up




an outer garment for women and girls, consisting of bodice and skirt in one piece.
clothing; apparel; garb: The dress of the 18th century was colorful.
formal attire.
a particular form of appearance; guise.
outer covering, as the plumage of birds.


of or for a dress or dresses.
of or for a formal occasion.
requiring formal dress.

verb (used with object), dressed or drest, dress·ing.

to put clothing upon.
to put formal or evening clothes on.
to trim; ornament; adorn: to dress a store window; to dress a Christmas tree.
to design clothing for or sell clothes to.
to comb out and do up (hair).
to cut up, trim, and remove the skin, feathers, viscera, etc., from (an animal, meat, fowl, or flesh of a fowl) for market or for cooking (often followed by out when referring to a large animal): We dressed three chickens for the dinner. He dressed out the deer when he got back to camp.
to prepare (skins, fabrics, timber, stone, ore, etc.) by special processes.
to apply medication or a dressing to (a wound or sore).
to make straight; bring (troops) into line: to dress ranks.
to make (stone, wood, or other building material) smooth.
to cultivate (land, fields, etc.).
Theater. to arrange (a stage) by effective placement of properties, scenery, actors, etc.
to ornament (a vessel) with ensigns, house flags, code flags, etc.: The bark was dressed with masthead flags only.
  1. to prepare or bait (a fishhook) for use.
  2. to prepare (bait, especially an artificial fly) for use.
Printing. to fit (furniture) around and between pages in a chase prior to locking it up.
to supply with accessories, optional features, etc.: to have one's new car fully dressed.

verb (used without object), dressed or drest, dress·ing.

to clothe or attire oneself; put on one's clothes: Wake up and dress, now!
to put on or wear formal or fancy clothes: to dress for dinner.
to come into line, as troops.
to align oneself with the next soldier, marcher, dancer, etc., in line.

Verb Phrases

dress down,
  1. to reprimand; scold.
  2. to thrash; beat.
  3. to dress informally or less formally: to dress down for the shipboard luau.
dress up,
  1. to put on one's best or fanciest clothing; dress relatively formally: They were dressed up for the Easter parade.
  2. to dress in costume or in another person's clothes: to dress up in Victorian clothing; to dress up as Marie Antoinette.
  3. to embellish or disguise, especially in order to make more appealing or acceptable: to dress up the facts with colorful details.

Origin of dress

1275–1325; Middle English dressen < Anglo-French dresser, dresc(i)er, to arrange, prepare, Old French drecier < Vulgar Latin *dīrēctiāre, derivative of Latin dīrēctus direct; noun use of v. in sense “attire” from circa 1600
Related formshalf-dressed, adjectiveout·dress, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for dress

1. frock. 2. raiment, attire, clothes, habit, garments, vestments, habiliments. 9. clothe, robe, garb.

Synonym study

1. Dress, costume, gown refer to garments for women. Dress is the general term for a garment: a black dress. Costume is used of the style of dress appropriate to some occasion, purpose, period, or character, especially as used on the stage, at balls, at court, or the like, and may apply to men's garments as well: an 18th-century costume. Gown is usually applied to a dress more expensive and elegant than the ordinary, usually long, to be worn on a special occasion: a wedding gown.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for dress up

dress up

verb (adverb)

to attire (oneself or another) in one's best clothes
to put fancy dress, disguise, etc, on (oneself or another), as in children's gameslet's dress up as ghosts!
(tr) to improve the appearance or impression ofit's no good trying to dress up the facts



to put clothes on (oneself or another); attire
  1. to change one's clothes
  2. to wear formal or evening clothes
(tr) to provide (someone) with clothing; clothe
(tr) to arrange merchandise in (a shop window) for effective display
(tr) to comb out or arrange (the hair) into position
(tr) to apply protective or therapeutic covering to (a wound, sore, etc)
(tr) to prepare (food, esp fowl and fish) for cooking or serving by cleaning, trimming, gutting, etc
(tr) to put a finish on (the surface of stone, metal, etc)
(tr) to till and cultivate (land), esp by applying manure, compost, or fertilizer
(tr) to prune and trim (trees, bushes, etc)
(tr) to groom (an animal, esp a horse)
(tr) to convert (tanned hides) into leather
(tr) archaic to spay or neuter (an animal)
angling to tie (a fly)
military to bring (troops) into line or (of troops) to come into line (esp in the phrase dress ranks)
dress ship nautical to decorate a vessel by displaying all signal flags on lines run from the bow to the stern over the mast trucks


a one-piece garment for a woman, consisting of a skirt and bodice
complete style of clothing; costumeformal dress; military dress
(modifier) suitable or required for a formal occasiona dress shirt
the outer covering or appearance, esp of living thingstrees in their spring dress of leaves

Word Origin for dress

C14: from Old French drecier, ultimately from Latin dīrigere to direct
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 dress up



early 14c., "make straight; direct, guide, control, prepare for cooking," from Old French dresser, drecier "raise (oneself), address, prepare, lift, raise, hoist, set up, arrange, set (a table), serve (food), straighten, put right, direct," from Vulgar Latin *directiare, from Latin directus "direct, straight" (see direct (v.)).

Sense of "decorate, adorn" is late 14c., as is that of "put on clothing." Original sense survives in military meaning "align columns of troops." Dress up "attire elaborately" is from 1670s; dressing down "wearing clothes less formal than expected" is from 1960. To dress (someone) down (1769) is ironical. Related: Dressed; dressing.



c.1600, originally any clothing, especially that appropriate to rank or to some ceremony; sense of "woman's garment" is first recorded 1630s, with overtones of "made not merely to clothe but to adorn." Dress rehearsal first recorded 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

dress up in Medicine




To apply medication, bandages, or other therapeutic materials to an area of the body such as a wound.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with dress up

dress up


Wear formal or elaborate clothes, as in I love to dress up for a party. [Late 1600s] For the antonym, see dress down, def. 2.


Put on a costume of some kind, as in The children love dressing up as witches and goblins. [Late 1800s]


Adorn or disguise something in order to make it more interesting or appealing. For example, She has a way of dressing up her account with fanciful details. [Late 1600s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.