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[taw-dree] /ˈtɔ dri/
adjective, tawdrier, tawdriest.
(of finery, trappings, etc.) gaudy; showy and cheap.
low or mean; base:
tawdry motives.
cheap, gaudy apparel.
Origin of tawdry
1605-15; short for (Sain)t Audrey lace, i.e., neck lace bought at St. Audrey's Fair in Ely, England; so called after St. Audrey (Old English Aethelthrȳth, died 679), Northumbrian queen and patron saint of Ely, who, according to tradition, died of a throat tumor which she considered just punishment of her youthful liking for neck laces
Related forms
tawdrily, adverb
tawdriness, noun
untawdry, adjective
1. flashy, meretricious.
1. elegant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for tawdry
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • What a tawdry world was this, in which clothes and food and houses are necessary!

    The Eustace Diamonds Anthony Trollope
  • Then sprang into existence the tawdry, the common, the gewgaw.

    The Gentle Art of Making Enemies James McNeill Whistler
  • A covered araba concealed the mother and daughters: we caught glimpses of tawdry garments and towzled heads.

  • It's tawdry and it's vulgar; and as for its morals, I think that it's worse than Monte Carlo.

    The Uncle Of An Angel Thomas A. Janvier
  • A tawdry pantomime was life, a pouring of blood, a grappling with shadows, a digging of graves.

    Erik Dorn Ben Hecht
British Dictionary definitions for tawdry


adjective -drier, -driest
cheap, showy, and of poor quality: tawdry jewellery
Derived Forms
tawdrily, adverb
tawdriness, noun
Word Origin
C16 tawdry lace, shortened and altered from Seynt Audries lace, finery sold at the fair of St Audrey (Etheldrida), 7th-century queen of Northumbria and patron saint of Ely, Cambridgeshire
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 tawdry

"cheap, showy, gaudy," 1670s, adjective use of noun tawdry "silk necktie for women" (1610s), shortened from tawdry lace (1540s), an alteration of St. Audrey's lace, a necktie or ribbon sold at the annual fair at Ely on Oct. 17 commemorating St. Audrey (queen of Northumbria, died 679). Her association with cheap lace necklaces is that she supposedly died of a throat tumor, which she considered God's punishment for her youthful fondness for showy necklaces [Bede].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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