• synonyms


[tin-suh l]
See more synonyms for tinsel on Thesaurus.com
  1. a glittering metallic substance, as copper or brass, in thin sheets, used in pieces, strips, threads, etc., to produce a sparkling effect cheaply.
  2. a metallic yarn, usually wrapped around a core yarn of silk, rayon, or cotton, for weaving brocade or lamé.
  3. anything showy or attractive with little or no real worth; showy pretense: The actress was tired of the fantasy and tinsel of her life.
  4. Obsolete. a fabric, formerly in use, of silk or wool interwoven with threads of gold, silver, or, later, copper.
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  1. consisting of or containing tinsel.
  2. showy; gaudy; tawdry.
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verb (used with object), tin·seled, tin·sel·ing or (especially British) tin·selled, tin·sel·ling.
  1. to adorn with tinsel.
  2. to adorn with anything glittering.
  3. to make showy or gaudy.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for tinsel

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The crescent moon and the stars filtered down a tinsel light.

  • It is of the usual variety, covered with tinsel and adorned with glass balls.

  • One may live in paint and tinsel, but one isn't absolutely without a soul.

    The Tragic Muse

    Henry James

  • Mineral Fibers: Asbestos, Tinsel, and other metallic fibers.


    William H. Dooley

  • But I cared not at that moment, whether for mispayment or tinsel.

    In Convent Walls

    Emily Sarah Holt

British Dictionary definitions for tinsel


  1. a decoration consisting of a piece of string with thin strips of metal foil attached along its length
  2. a yarn or fabric interwoven with strands of glittering thread
  3. anything cheap, showy, and gaudy
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verb -sels, -selling or -selled or US -sels, -seling or -seled (tr)
  1. to decorate with or as if with tinselsnow tinsels the trees
  2. to give a gaudy appearance to
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  1. made of or decorated with tinsel
  2. showily but cheaply attractive; gaudy
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Derived Formstinsel-like, adjectivetinselly, adjective

Word Origin

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper