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 formsmer·e·tri·cious·ly, adverbmer·e·tri·cious·ness, nounun·mer·e·tri·cious, adjectiveun·mer·e·tri·cious·ly, adverbun·mer·e·tri·cious·ness, noun
Can be confusedmeritorious meretricious

Synonyms for meretricious Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for meretricious

Contemporary Examples of meretricious

  • Now that Laura has been revealed to be little more than a collection of notes, the debate seems silly, meretricious.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Nabokov Mess

    Nathaniel Rich

    November 22, 2009

Historical Examples of meretricious

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for meretricious



superficially or garishly attractive
insinceremeretricious praise
archaic of, like, or relating to a prostitute
Derived Formsmeretriciously, adverbmeretriciousness, noun

Word Origin for meretricious

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

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