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mid-15c., "a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread," from Middle French estincelle "spark, spangle" (see stencil). Meaning "very thin sheets or strips of shiny metal" is recorded from 1590s. Figurative sense of "anything showy with little real worth" is from 1650s, suggested from at least 1590s. First recorded use of Tinseltown for "Hollywood" is from 1972.