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 tawdry

Contemporary Examples of tawdry

Historical Examples of tawdry

  • The few ornaments were new, and not at all dusty or dingy or tawdry.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • The town was tawdry in its preparations--and knew it; but half sincere in its enthusiasm--and knew it.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • The effect of this was certainly incongruous, not to say tawdry.

    Aztec Land

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • The fire was the really great adornment; all else was cheap, and some of it was tawdry.

    Wayside Courtships

    Hamlin Garland

  • The fire was the only adornment; all else was cheap, and some of it was tawdry.

British Dictionary definitions for tawdry


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 tawdry

"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