having the nap worn off so as to lay bare the threads of the warp and woof, as a fabric, garment, etc.
wearing threadbare clothes; shabby or poor: a threadbare old man.
meager, scanty, or poor: a threadbare emotional life.
hackneyed; trite; ineffectively stale: threadbare arguments.

Origin of threadbare

First recorded in 1325–75, threadbare is from the Middle English word thredbare. See thread, bare1
Related formsthread·bare·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for threadbare

Contemporary Examples of threadbare

Historical Examples of threadbare

  • It's a very good word, too, but sometimes I fear she will wear it threadbare.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • When at length she felt a welcome jar and lurch her patience was threadbare.

    The Very Small Person

    Annie Hamilton Donnell

  • He weighed the stories he had heard from Shaky, and picked them threadbare.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • His sentiments were, no better known in Boston than his threadbare clothes.

  • She pressed the cat to her threadbare bosom with a breathless exclamation.

    Under Western Eyes

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for threadbare



(of cloth, clothing, etc) having the nap worn off so that the threads are exposed
meagre or poora threadbare existence
hackneyeda threadbare argument
wearing threadbare clothes; shabby
Derived Formsthreadbareness, noun
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 threadbare

mid-14c., from thread (n.) + bare. The notion is of "having the nap worn off," leaving bare the threads.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper