adjective, taw·dri·er, taw·dri·est.

(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 formstaw·dri·ly, adverbtaw·dri·ness, nounun·taw·dry, adjective

Synonyms for tawdry

Antonyms for tawdry

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tawdriness

Historical Examples of tawdriness

  • There is a tawdriness about them all, something artificial and unreal.

    The Traitors

    E. Phillips (Edward Phillips) Oppenheim

  • In England she had borrowed the untidiness and tawdriness that degrade the English poor.

    Our House

    Elizabeth Robins Pennell

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

    The Tin Soldier

    Temple Bailey

  • 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

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

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete

    Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

British Dictionary definitions for tawdriness


adjective -drier or -driest

cheap, showy, and of poor qualitytawdry jewellery
Derived Formstawdrily, adverbtawdriness, noun

Word Origin for tawdry

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

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