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


  • IPA(key): /ˌmɛɹɪˈtɹɪʃəs/, /ˌmɛɹəˈtɹɪʃəs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪʃəs


meretricious (comparative more meretricious, superlative most meretricious)

  1. Tastelessly gaudy; superficially attractive but having in reality no value or substance; falsely alluring.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 10, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      He looked round the poor room, at the distempered walls, and the bad engravings in meretricious frames, the crinkly paper and wax flowers on the chiffonier; and he thought of a room like Father Bryan's, with panelling, with cut glass, with tulips in silver pots, such a room as he had hoped to have for his own.
    • 2006, Clive James, North Face of Soho, Picador 2007, p. 164:
      When I lifted my eyes from the page, there was none of the meretricious argument London always offers that the sole real purpose in life is to hustle for a buck.
  2. (law) Involving unlawful sexual connection or lack of consent by at least one party (said of a romantic relationship).
  3. (obsolete) Of, or relating to prostitutes or prostitution.


Related terms[edit]