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

  • noun An alloy of zinc and copper used as imitation gold.
  • noun A cheap imitation.
  • adjective Made of pinchbeck.
  • adjective Imitation; spurious.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An alloy of three or four parts of copper with one of zinc, much used in cheap jewelry.
  • Sham; spurious; bogus.

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

  • noun An alloy of copper and zinc, resembling gold; a yellow metal, composed of about three ounces of zinc to a pound of copper. It is much used as an imitation of gold in the manufacture of cheap jewelry.
  • adjective Made of pinchbeck; sham; cheap; spurious; unreal.

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

  • noun An alloy of copper and zinc once used as imitation gold for cheap jewelry.
  • adjective Made of pinchbeck.
  • adjective Sham; spurious, artificial; being a cheap substitution; only superficially attractive.

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

  • adjective serving as an imitation or substitute
  • noun an alloy of copper and zinc that is used in cheap jewelry to imitate gold


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

[After Christopher Pinchbeck, (1670?–1732), English watchmaker.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Named after Christopher Pinchbeck, an 18th century London watchmaker who developed the alloy.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word pinchbeck.


  • To-day we analyse ruthlessly thy metre, proclaiming it the butterwoman's rank to market, and thy sentiment, which we dub pinchbeck, and we remember that the Union Jack is used only in the

    Without Prejudice Israel Zangwill 1895

  • They were ladies of lofty ambition, who for that reason were incapable of taking the least interest in what might be called the 'pinchbeck' things of life, even when they had an historic value, or, generally speaking, in anything that was not directly associated with some object aesthetically precious.

    Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1896

  • _Lays_ as "pinchbeck"; and I am rather disposed to think that he took this opportunity for a sort of sally in flank.

    Matthew Arnold George Saintsbury 1889

  • Miss Shields had not studied Mr. Matthew Arnold, and was mercifully unaware that not to detect the "pinchbeck" in the _Lays_ is the sign of a grovelling nature.

    The Mark Of Cain Andrew Lang 1878

  • It seems difficult for our girls to discriminate between a style of dressing suitable to a wealthy woman of leisure and that suited to a girl in an office on a salary of possibly $12 per week; or to distinguish between really valuable clothing and pinchbeck imitations.

    A Renegade History of the United States Thaddeus Russell 2010

  • Lit-lit, tearfully shy and frightened, was bedecked by her bearded husband with a new calico dress, splendidly beaded moccasins, a gorgeous silk handkerchief over her raven hair, a purple scarf about her throat, brass ear-rings and finger-rings, and a whole pint of pinchbeck jewellery, including a Waterbury watch.


  • Fox holds a potlatch to signalize his marriage to Lit-Lit and she, "tearfully shy and frightened, is bedecked by her husband with a new calico dress, splendidly beaded mocassins, a gorgeous silk handkerchief over her raven hair, a purple scarf about her throat, brass earrings and finger-rings, and a whole pint of pinchbeck jewelry, including a Waterbury watch."

    “I, in the course of making my living by turning journalism into literature. . .” 2008

  • I was absurdly surprised to find, when I myself was converted, that every sort and condition of Christian, practising or pinchbeck, that you can find in the innumerable denominations of Protestantism, can be found in the Catholic Church.

    The taste for magic superversive 2008

  • I am already thinking about possible research subjects, though the question cannot really arise for several years yet, as I should very much like to feel that I have done some work by the time I leave academia behind, and also because I want to cock a snook at that absurd fellow who has bestridden the field for forty years like a pinchbeck colossus.

    To do superversive 2007

  • What are called honors and dignities, and even dignity and honor, are generally of pinchbeck.

    Les Miserables 2008


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Late lieabed under a quilt of old overcoats, fingering a pinchbeck bracelet, Dan Kelly's token.

    Joyce, Ulysses, 10

    January 7, 2007

  • "After watchmaker Christopher Pinchbeck (1670-1732), who invented it.

    It's ironic that today his name is a synonym for something counterfeit

    but in his time his fame was worldwide, not only as the inventor of

    this curious alloy but also as a maker of musical clocks and orreries*.

    The composition of this gold-like alloy was a closely-guarded secret

    but it didn't prevent others from passing off articles as if made from

    this alloy... faking fake gold!"

    'Blackpool is more than a tower of lights and a rhinestone mile of slots and seasonal variety acts. It is Lancashire's pinchbeck LA.'

    Adam Edwards; Keeping Up And Away From the Neighbours; Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Jul 24, 2004."

    - A.W.A.D, November 19, 2007

    November 20, 2007

  • adjective: counterfeit or spurious.

    November 20, 2007

  • "To be sure there was a golden haze over those times and some of the gold was no doubt false, mere pinchbeck at the best; but even so they had an irreplaceable quality of their own..."

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission, 169

    February 13, 2008

  • The Russian Countess gave talks on the prisons of Siberia, wearing the headdress and pinchbeck ornaments of a Slav bride...

    - Frank Norris, The Octopus, bk 2, ch. 1

    August 19, 2008

  • Be careful of paintings on eBay;

    Excitement can bear you away.

    Keep bidding in check

    And look for pinchbeck.

    (That landscape's not really Monet.)

    August 16, 2014