[ tin-suh l ]
/ ˈtɪn səl /



consisting of or containing tinsel.
showy; gaudy; tawdry.

verb (used with object), tin·seled, tin·sel·ing or (especially British) tin·selled, tin·sel·ling.

Origin of tinsel

1495–1505; by aphesis < Middle French estincelle (Old French estincele) a spark, flash < Vulgar Latin *stincilla, metathetic variant of Latin scintilla scintilla; first used attributively in phrases tinsel satin, tinsel cloth
Related formstin·sel·like, adjectiveo·ver·tin·sel, verb (used with object), o·ver·tin·seled, o·ver·tin·sel·ing or (especially British) o·ver·tin·selled, o·ver·tin·sel·ling.un·tin·seled, adjectiveun·tin·selled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tinsel

British Dictionary definitions for tinsel


/ (ˈtɪnsəl) /


verb -sels, -selling or -selled or US -sels, -seling or -seled (tr)

to decorate with or as if with tinselsnow tinsels the trees
to give a gaudy appearance to


made of or decorated with tinsel
showily but cheaply attractive; gaudy
Derived Formstinsel-like, adjectivetinselly, adjective

Word Origin for tinsel

C16: from Old French estincele a spark, from Latin scintilla; compare stencil
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 tinsel



mid-15c., "a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread," from Middle French estincelle "spark, spangle" (see stencil). Meaning "very thin sheets or strips of shiny metal" is recorded from 1590s. Figurative sense of "anything showy with little real worth" is from 1650s, suggested from at least 1590s. First recorded use of Tinseltown for "Hollywood" is from 1972.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper