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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): /ˌmɛrɪˈtrɪʃəs/, /ˌmɛrəˈtrɪʃəs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪʃəs


meretricious ‎(comparative more meretricious, superlative most meretricious)

  1. (obsolete) Of, or relating to prostitutes or prostitution.
  2. (law) Involving unlawful sexual connection or lack of consent by at least one party (said of a romantic relationship)
  3. 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.


Related terms[edit]