from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Attracting attention in a vulgar manner.
  • adjective Plausible but false or insincere; specious.
  • adjective Of or relating to prostitutes or prostitution.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Latin meretrīcius, of prostitutes, from meretrīx, meretrīc-, prostitute, from merēre, to earn money; see (s)mer- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin meretrīcius, from meretrīx ("harlot, prostitute"), from mereō ("earn, deserve, merit") (English merit) + -trīx ("(female agent)") (English -trix).


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  • 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

  • Quite different than meritorious

    July 25, 2007

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

    December 16, 2007

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

    December 16, 2007

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

    March 21, 2010

  • 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

  • Electoral fare, while inauspicious,

    Yet teases with flavors delicious.

    Aromas mendacious,

    A hint of salacious,

    But served up with sweet meretricious.

    November 12, 2015

  • Often if you use this word, someone thinks you are complimenting them!

    January 25, 2022