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[mer-i-trish-uh s] /ˌmɛr ɪˈtrɪʃ əs/
alluring by a show of flashy or vulgar attractions; tawdry.
based on pretense, deception, or insincerity.
pertaining to or characteristic of a prostitute.
Origin of meretricious
1620-30; < Latin meretrīcius of, pertaining to prostitutes, derivative of meretrīx prostitute = mere-, stem of merēre to earn + -trīx -trix; see -ous
Related forms
meretriciously, adverb
meretriciousness, noun
unmeretricious, adjective
unmeretriciously, adverb
unmeretriciousness, noun
Can be confused
meritorious, meretricious.
1. showy, gaudy. 2. spurious, sham, false. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for meretricious
Contemporary Examples
  • Now that Laura has been revealed to be little more than a collection of notes, the debate seems silly, meretricious.

    The Nabokov Mess Nathaniel Rich November 21, 2009
Historical Examples
  • Are not the people being educated in the use of and belief in machine-made ornament and meretricious display?

    The Potter's Craft Charles F. Binns
  • There is nothing showy or clever, nothing cheap or meretricious in all their work.

  • The line of small plane trees, which gave Laventie the meretricious semblance of a garden city, was standing yet.

  • But then it looked insincere, meretricious, affected, and always haggard.

    The Way of Ambition Robert Hichens
  • Despite her sincerity, she is affected, and her arguments are often weakened by meretricious forms of expression.

    Mary Wollstonecraft Elizabeth Robins Pennell
  • The meretricious melodrama did not fool them, but they delighted in its absurdities.

    The Plastic Age Percy Marks
  • The real merit was over-laden with a thick coat of meretricious glitter.

    Wagner as I Knew Him Ferdinand Christian Wilhelm Praeger
  • In painting he contented himself with a negative colour, and as the painter of mankind, rejected all meretricious ornament.

  • Or was it but the meretricious glamour of the foregone, and would the fascination have been as great if all had still been well?

    The Shadow of a Man E. W. Hornung
British Dictionary definitions for meretricious


superficially or garishly attractive
insincere: meretricious praise
(archaic) of, like, or relating to a prostitute
Derived Forms
meretriciously, adverb
meretriciousness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin merētrīcius, from merētrix prostitute, from merēre to earn money
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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Word Origin and History for meretricious

1620s, "pertaining to harlots," from Latin meretricius "of or pertaining to prostitutes," from meretrix (genitive meretricis) "prostitute," literally "woman who earns money," from merere, mereri "to earn, gain" (see merit (n.)). Meaning "gaudily alluring" is from 1630s. Related: Meretriciously; meretriciousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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