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twee

[ twee ]
/ twi /
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adjective Chiefly British.

affectedly dainty or quaint: twee writing about furry little creatures.

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Origin of twee

1900–05; apparently reduced from tweet (perhaps via pronunciation twiʔ), mimicking child's pronunciation of sweet
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What else does twee mean?

Twee describes someone or something as affectedly and cloyingly cute, sweet, and quaint. It’s also a subgenre of indie pop music.

Where does twee come from?

The word twee comes from early 20th–century British baby talk. Baby talk refers to both the language adults sometimes use with small children (think tummy for “stomach” or nub-nub for “pacifier”) as well as the way that kids attempt adult speech. Twee comes from the baby-talk mispronunciation of sweet. It’s seen as early as 1905.

Initially, twee was used affectionately for something or someone sweet and adorable. Over time, however, twee gained a negative connotation throughout the English language, characterizing something as overly or affectedly cute or quaint. In the 2000–10s, twee conjured up a certain brand of overdone, white hipsterism: polka dots, bird patterns, suspenders, handlebar mustaches, Zooey Deschanel, and Wes Anderson films.

How is twee used in real life?

In the 2010s, the word twee has become popularly associated with a certain aesthetic, especially in women’s clothing. It stereotypically includes wearing vintage, retro clothes with floral or animal patterns and Peter Pan collars, cutesy accessories, and a consciously nerdy, meek, or demure vibe.

In music, twee is commonly used to describe a certain subgenre of indie pop music that has its roots in the 1980s. Generally, twee is poppy and jangly, often slightly folk-inspired, and is heavy on the love songs. Standout examples include Belle and Sebastian and The Pastels.

Being twee usually implies something or someone is charming and whimsical to the point it’s cloying and grating.

The TV comedy Portlandia notably mocked tweeness in hipster culture.

More examples of twee:

“Of course tweeness of any sort remains polarising – what is endearing for some is toe-curlingly cloying and sickly for others – but love it or loathe it, there is now no escaping it.”
—Lindsay Baker, BBC, October 2014

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for twee

British Dictionary definitions for twee

twee
/ (twiː) /

adjective

British excessively sentimental, sweet, or pretty

Derived forms of twee

tweely, adverbtweeness, noun

Word Origin for twee

C19: from tweet, mincing or affected pronunciation of sweet
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
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