Definitions

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

  • n. Very thin sheets, strips, or threads of a glittering material used as a decoration.
  • n. Something sparkling or showy but basically valueless: the tinsel of parties and promotional events.
  • adj. Made of or decorated with tinsel.
  • adj. Gaudy, showy, and basically valueless.
  • transitive v. To decorate with or as if with tinsel: tinsel a Christmas tree.
  • transitive v. To give a false sparkle to.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A shining material used for ornamental purposes; especially, a very thin, gauzelike cloth with much gold or silver woven into it; also, very thin metal overlaid with a thin coating of gold or silver, brass foil, or the like.
  • n. Very thin strips of a glittering, metallic material used as a decoration, and traditionally, draped at Christmas time over streamers, paper chains and the branches of Christmas trees.
  • n. Anything shining and gaudy; something superficially shining and showy, or having a false luster, and more gay than valuable.
  • adj. Glittering, later especially superficially so; gaudy, showy.
  • v. To adorn with tinsel; to deck out with cheap but showy ornaments; to make gaudy.
  • v. To give a false sparkle to (something).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A shining material used for ornamental purposes; especially, a very thin, gauzelike cloth with much gold or silver woven into it; also, very thin metal overlaid with a thin coating of gold or silver, brass foil, or the like.
  • n. Something shining and gaudy; something superficially shining and showy, or having a false luster, and more gay than valuable.
  • adj. Showy to excess; gaudy; specious; superficial.
  • transitive v. To adorn with tinsel; to deck out with cheap but showy ornaments; to make gaudy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In electricity, fine threads of copper or bronze wire used in making up flexible stranded conductors for portable and other fixtures.
  • Specifically, to embellish (ceramic ware) with metallic effects.
  • n. Loss; forfeiture.
  • n. Some glittering metallic substance, as burnished brass, copper, or tin, made in sheets approaching the thinness of foil, and used in pieces, strips, or threads for any purpose in which a sparkling effect is desired without much cost. Gold and silver tinsel, round or flat, made of Dutch metal, is much employed in the manufacture of artificial flies.
  • n. A fabric or some material for dress overlaid or shot with glittering metallic sparkles or threads. The name has been given to cloth of silk interwoven with gold or silver threads.
  • n. Figuratively, glistening or gaudy show; superficial glitter or sparkle; garish pretense.
  • Consisting of, or characteristic of, tinsel; hence, gaudy; showy to excess; speciously glittering.
  • To adorn with tinsel; hence, to adorn with anything showy and glittering.

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

  • n. a thread with glittering metal foil attached
  • v. interweave with tinsel
  • v. adorn with tinsel
  • n. a showy decoration that is basically valueless
  • v. impart a cheap brightness to

Etymologies

Middle English tineseile, from Old French estincelle, spangle, spark; see stencil.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
French étincelle (“spark”), from Old French estincelle, from Latin scintilla; compare scintillate, stencil. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Interestingly though, the English word 'tinsel' is actually taken, not from German but from the French word 'estincele', which translates roughly as 'sparkle'. deklin42, posted this comment on Dec 3rd, 2009

    Quazen

  • The staggering on too-high heels, the silly hats, the little black dresses covered in tinsel and the semi-drunken jokes about handcuffs.

    It’s That Time Of Year Again « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG

  • To create a character, you take a shiny button here, a strand of hair there, a bit of tinsel from the garbage can, and build something which, you hope, will look like a person.

    Claire Messud discusses The Emperor's Children

  • They did, after all, drop their hosts from the rafters like Ziegfeld showgirls, while draping the proscenium in tinsel lights and the stage in drapes.

    Oscar show had its smart moments, just not enough

  • Well, the tinsel is being put away, lights are being torn down, eggnog hangovers are being nursed, and entire legions of families are sitting around the table, eating breakfast in awkward silence after the drunken revelations from the night before.

    Holiday Review: Christmas | Heretical Ideas Magazine

  • Along with the thin tinsel there were twisted red and green crepe paper streamers that hung in loops from the corners of the room, and balloons too.

    Foiled

  • Regardless of temperature, blizzards, or general apathy, the tinsel is tossed the first day of December.

    ‘Tis the Season @ Attack of the Redneck Mommy

  • I scored 11 out of 15 which came with a cheerful holiday message: Good try but the tinsel is looking a little tatty and your needles are starting to drop.

    Yeah It’s Friday! « So Many Books

  • Around the broom, imitating tinsel, is wrapped the gauze from a bandage.

    Hess, Jay C.

  • Under a square glass case on the mantel-shelf, lifted high above the busy scene, stood a statue of the Virgin, very old and very ugly, dressed in tinsel, a necklace of colored beads around its neck.

    A Childhood in Brittany Eighty Years Ago

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