Origin of twee
Words nearby twee
MORE ABOUT TWEE
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.
My psychiatrist won't prescribe me anything even though she admits I'm insufferably twee.
— Smoke Teff (@steviekoteff) January 10, 2019
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
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.
How to use twee in a sentence
They won’t eat drink all the seltzers you have in the fridge and they never make noise when you’re trying to watch your favorite twee baking competition show.The best watering cans to keep your plants thriving all year round|Sarah Horaczek|October 14, 2021|Popular-Science
It just seemed a bit twee to me in an era of sophisticated data modeling, social-media targeting and brute-force tweets from an incumbent President.Surprising Data Shows Political Letter-Writing Still Gets Out the Vote|Philip Elliott|October 1, 2021|Time
Kelley and Lorey smartly balance elements that will appeal to teens and adults alike, avoiding too many twee moments without going over the heads of the tweens who’ve historically been the core audience for most live-action Disney shows.Big Shot Is a Surprisingly Lovable Sports Drama From Franchise-Crazy Disney+|Judy Berman|April 16, 2021|Time
Pollan and the like did usher in a new slow food, farm-to-table movement across certain classes, which at its best produced incredible meals with a mind to being sustainable and at its worst was insufferably twee.Fast Food’s Retro Glow-Up|Jaya Saxena|March 25, 2021|Eater
Her style, much like her diminutive nickname, is best described as “Hamptons twee”—preppy and peppy.How Taryn Toomey’s ‘The Class’ Became New York’s Latest Fitness Craze|Lizzie Crocker|January 9, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Murdoch is proud of the end product, no matter how many find it “twee”…whatever that means.Stuart Murdoch's 'God Help the Girl' Does Something Pretty (and Something Twee)|Melissa Leon|September 5, 2014|DAILY BEAST
I have spent an hour on the phone with Marc Spitz, the author of Twee, having him explain Twee.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Lost in Translation are Twee.
In a sense, all vintage toys are Twee, but I have a personal distaste for Legos that I cannot explain.
Wilt gij zoo goed zijn, twee boterhammetjes en twee glaasjes melk te brengen?The Further Adventures of O'Neill in Holland|J. Irwin Brown
It was Twee-tweesh-ke-way, the plover, flying along the beach; in another moment the great glittering waters lay before them.American Indian Fairy Tales|Anonymous
Selecting one of the choicest sparrows, the hawk took it away to eat, after which the others came out crying, 'Twee-twee!'The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories|Leo Tolstoi
Daar twee kijven hebben ze beiden schuld—When two quarrel both are to blame.
Lisping, Twee-twee-zee call notes, like a hushed whispered whistle, are the only sounds the visitors make.Birds Every Child Should Know|Neltje Blanchan