What 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.

Examples of twee


Examples of twee
Why do women stylists often dress men to look like Ben Wyatt from Parks & Rec or Tom Hansen from 500 Days of Summer? That twee look is awful
@dieworkwear, March 2013
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

Where does twee come from?


The word twee comes from early 20thcentury British baby talk. Baby talk refers to both the annoying 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 attested 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.

Who uses twee?

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.

The Fashion Foot

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.

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