Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Attracting attention in a vulgar manner: meretricious ornamentation. See Synonyms at gaudy1.
  • adj. Plausible but false or insincere; specious: a meretricious argument.
  • adj. Of or relating to prostitutes or prostitution: meretricious relationships.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of, or relating to prostitutes or prostitution.
  • adj. Tastelessly gaudy; superficially attractive but having no substance; falsely alluring.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to prostitutes; having to do with harlots; lustful.
  • adj. Resembling the arts of a harlot; alluring by false show; gaudily and deceitfully ornamental; tawdry.
  • adj. Deceptive or based on deception; seeming plausible, but based on pretense or insincerity; deceptive; misleading; insincere; specious.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to prostitutes; wanton; libidinous.
  • Alluring by false attractions; having a gaudy but deceitful appearance; tawdry; showy: as, meretricious dress or ornaments.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. based on pretense; deceptively pleasing
  • adj. tastelessly showy
  • adj. like or relating to a prostitute

Etymologies

Latin meretrīcius, of prostitutes, from meretrīx, meretrīc-, prostitute, from merēre, to earn money; see (s)mer-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin meretrīcius, from meretrīx ("harlot, prostitute"), from mereō ("earn, deserve, merit") (English merit) + -trīx ("(female agent)") (English -trix). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • From p. 63 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: "He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty."

    September 29, 2012

  • I can accept that I'm oft forgotten except when mistaken for my cousin.

    March 21, 2010

  • I like the Latin term, meretrix, which eerily predicts a modern slang term for what a prostitute does.

    December 16, 2007

  • merely attractive but without any deeper worth or integrity - a word that we should be using often, I think

    December 16, 2007

  • Quite different than meritorious

    July 25, 2007

  • Isaac Asimov, when confronted with this word, did not know what it meant. This was difficult for him to except, so he asked the man who said it to repeat it again. The man said "Meretricious?", and Asimov responded, "And a happy new year".

    December 2, 2006