Definitions

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

  • adj. Having the nap worn down so that the filling or warp threads show through; frayed or shabby: threadbare rugs.
  • adj. Wearing old, shabby clothing.
  • adj. Overused to the point of being worn out; hackneyed: threadbare excuses.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. shabby, frayed and worn to an extent that warp threads show
  • adj. wearing clothes of threadbare material
  • adj. banal or clich├ęd; trite or hackneyed

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Worn to the naked thread; having the nap worn off; threadbare clothes.
  • adj. Fig.: Worn out

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Having the thread bare; worn so that the nap is lost and the thread is visible, either wholly or in certain parts: said of a piece of textile fabric, as in a garment, or of the garment itself.
  • Wearing threadbare clothes; shabby; seedy.
  • Well-worn; much used; hence, hackneyed; trite: as, a threadbare jest.

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

  • adj. repeated too often; overfamiliar through overuse
  • adj. having the nap worn away so that the threads show through

Etymologies

thread + bare (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • During office hours, he tools around in threadbare denim shirts and old motorcycle jackets.

    Old Clothes

  • Replied he, O Kings of the Age, the strangest thing that happened to me was that one day, two-and-twenty years ago, I snatched a girl who belonged to the Holy City; she was gifted with beauty and comeliness, despite that she was but a servant and was clad in threadbare clothes, with a piece of camlet-cloth on her head.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans.

    Jane Austen Gets Defensive

  • The Cathedral is occupied 24/7 by pious parched and shriveled Indian women, barefoot and wrapped in threadbare Indian cloths, crawling the length of the nave on their knees, pleading with the larger than life suffering gesso Jesus hanging above the baroque red velvet elegance of the raised altar platform.

    San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

  • I had not meant to spend any more money on the house, but I was worn threadbare from the discomfort of having no room of my own.

    Madeleine: An Autobiography

  • "Gentle, austere figures, dressed always in threadbare black"

    A Childhood in Brittany Eighty Years Ago

  • But I felt a pang of guilt as I recalled the threadbare state of Kedge-Lockaby's modest little hospital.

    Sagittarius Whorl

  • Blake endures the deprivation with a kind of threadbare resignation, saving his hostility for angry phone calls to his manager (Paul Herman).

    Review: Crazy Heart « Screaming Blue Reviews

  • His office, we learn, is "threadbare"; its wall-to-wall carpet, old.

    Yvette Kantrow: Brilliance schmilliance: Portfolio Magazine's "Brilliance" Issue Isn't and The New York Times Stoops to Flatter

  • This is very 'threadbare' morality, very very familiar and old - fashioned teaching; but I am accustomed to believe that no teaching is threadbare until it is practised; and that however well-worn the platitudes may be, you and I want them once again unless we have obeyed them, and done all which they enjoin.

    Expositions of Holy Scripture: the Acts

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