tinsel

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English

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Pronunciation

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Red and yellow tinsel (sense 2.1) on a Christmas tree.
A c. 1830 tinsel print of the British actor John Thomas Haines as Brian de Bois-Guilbert in a stage performance of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe.[n 1] A tinsel print has stamped pieces of tinfoil tinsel (sense 2.1) glued on to it for decoration.

Etymology 1

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The noun is derived from Middle English tinsel (cloth containing gold or silver thread) [and other forms],[1] probably from Anglo-Norman tincel, tincelle, tencele, and then:[2]

The English word is a doublet of scintilla, scintillate, and stencil.

The adjective is from an attributive use of the noun;[2] while the verb is derived from the noun.[3]

Noun

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tinsel (usually uncountable, plural tinsels)

  1. (obsolete) A shining fabric used for ornamental purposes.
    1. A silk or wool fabric with gold or silver thread woven into it; brocade.
      Synonym: baldacchin
    2. A very thin, gauzelike cloth with gold or silver (or, later, copper) thread woven into it, or overlaid with thin metal plates.
      • 1646 March 2 (Gregorian calendar), James Howell, “II. To Mr. En. P. at Paris.”, in Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ. Familiar Letters Domestic and Forren. [], 3rd edition, volume I, London: [] Humphrey Mos[e]ley, [], published 1655, →OCLC, section VI, page 284:
        I know in that more ſubtil Air of yours Tinſel ſometimes paſſes for Tiſſue, Venice Beads for Pearl, and Demicaſters for Bevers; But I know you have ſo diſcerning a Judgment, that you will not ſuffer your ſelf to be ſo cheated, []
  2. (by extension)
    1. A thin, shiny foil for ornamental purposes which is of a material made of metal or resembling metal; especially, narrow glittering strips of such a material, often strung on to thread, and traditionally at Christmastime draped on Christmas trees, hung from balustrades or ceilings, or wrapped around objects as a decoration.
    2. (figuratively) Anything shining and gaudy; especially something superficially shiny and showy, or having a false lustre, and more pretty than valuable.
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto I”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 15, page 395:
        Her garments all were wrought of beaten gold, / And all her ſteed with tinſell trappings ſhone, / Which fledd ſo faſt, that nothing mote him hold, / And ſcarſe them leaſure gaue, her paſſing to behold.
      • 1675, John Dryden, “Epilogue”, in Aureng-zebe: A Tragedy. [], London: [] T[homas] N[ewcomb] for Henry Herringman, [], published 1676, →OCLC:
        Yet ſcatter'd here and there I ſome behold, / Who can diſcern the Tinſel from the Gold: []
      • 1781 (date written), William Cowper, “Truth”, in Poems, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC, page 90:
        O happy peaſant! O unhappy bard! / His the mere tinſel, her's the rich reward; / He prais'd perhaps for ages yet to come, / She never heard of half a mile from home; / He loſt in errors his vain heart prefers, / She ſafe in the ſimplicity of hers.
      • 1862 July – 1863 August, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], “Dawning Hopes”, in Romola. [], volume I, London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], published 1863, →OCLC, book I, page 103:
        [T]hey have been the delusive prologue to an age worse than that of iron—the age of tinsel and gossamer, in which no thought has substance enough to be moulded into consistent and lasting form.
Derived terms
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Translations
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See also
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Adjective

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tinsel (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) Of fabric: ornamented by being woven with gold or silver thread, or overlaid with thin metal plates; brocaded.
  2. (by extension)
    1. (obsolete) Glittering.
      • 1667, John Milton, “Book VIII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker []; [a]nd by Robert Boulter []; [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 36–37:
        Baſes and tinſel Trappings, gorgious Knights / At Jouſt and Touneament; then marſhal'd Feaſt / Serv'd up in Hall with Sewers, and Seneſhals; []
    2. (figuratively) Apparently beautiful and costly but having little value; superficially attractive; gaudy, showy, tawdry.
      • 1890 December 24, “Judy’s Diary”, in Judy: The London Serio-comic Journal, volume 46, London: [s.n.], →OCLC, page 306, column 2:
        Went to that magnificent Temple of Thalia, the New Olympic, and saw the bewitchingest Pauline, in the person of Winifred Emery, that ever I saw in the shammiest, stagiest, tawdriest, tinsellest, transparentest, most diaphanously theatrical comedy I ever saw in the absolute period of my Thespian existence.
        A nonce use of the superlative form of tinsel.
      • 2009, Larry Samuel, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: 1980–1994”, in Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture, New York, N.Y.: AMACOM, →ISBN, page 192:
        Sensing plenty of room for such displays of conspicuous consumption, no less than three other knockoffs—The Good Life ("the most luxurious half-hour on television"), The Robb Report (a spinoff of the ultra high-end auto magazine), and Eye on Hollywood (the tinselest side of Tinseltown)—were soon on the air, each also a tour de force of hedonism and exhibition.
        A nonce use of the superlative form of tinsel.
Translations
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Verb

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tinsel (third-person singular simple present tinsels, present participle (UK) tinselling or (US) tinseling, simple past and past participle (UK) tinselled or (US) tinseled) (transitive)

  1. To adorn (something) with tinsel.
    1. (also figuratively) To ornament (fabric, etc.) by weaving into it thread of gold, silver, or some other shiny material.
    2. (by extension) To deck out (a place or something) with showy but cheap ornaments; to make gaudy.
      • 1728, [Alexander Pope], “Book the First”, in The Dunciad. An Heroic Poem. [], Dublin, London: [] A. Dodd, →OCLC, page 5, lines 69–72:
        She, tinſel'd o'er in robes of varying hues, / With ſelf-applauſe her wild creation views, / Sees momentary monſters riſe and fall, / And with her own fools-colours gilds them all.
      • 1848 June 28, William Makepeace Thackeray, “Before the Curtain”, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], →OCLC, page vii:
        [] and yokels looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind.
  2. (figuratively) To give (something) a false or superficial attractiveness.
Derived terms
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Translations
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Etymology 2

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The noun is derived from Middle English tinsel (destruction, loss; damnation, spiritual loss; state of damnation) [and other forms],[4] probably from Old Norse *týnsla (modern Norwegian tynsla (damage, destruction)), from týna (to destroy; to lose; to perish) (whence Middle English tinen (to be deprived of, lose; to fail to maintain; to forfeit; to lose track of; to mislay; to be separated from; to escape; to be defeated or forced to withdraw; to waste; to consume, use up; to be destroyed, perish; to damn; to remove, take))[5] + -sla (suffix forming nouns from verbs, either denoting the action of the verb or the medium or product of the action).[6] Týna is derived from tjón (damage; loss),[7] from Proto-Germanic *teuną (damage; destruction, ruin; lack); further etymology uncertain, possibly from Proto-Indo-European *dū- (to torment, vex) or *dāw- (to burn).

The verb is derived from the noun.[8]

Noun

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tinsel (uncountable) (Scotland)

  1. (obsolete) Damage, detriment; loss.
  2. (law, archaic) Deprivation; forfeiture.

Verb

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tinsel (third-person singular simple present tinsels, present participle tinselling, simple past and past participle tinselled)

  1. (transitive, Scotland, obsolete, rare) To cause (someone) damage or loss; also, to impose a fine on (someone); to mulct.
    Synonym: (archaic) endamage

Notes

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References

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  1. ^ tinsel, n.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 tinsel, n.3 and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; tinsel, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ tinsel, v.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2019.
  4. ^ tinsel, n.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ tīnen, v.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. ^ tinsel, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021.
  7. ^ Compare tine | tyne, v.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021.
  8. ^ † tinsel, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021.

Further reading

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Anagrams

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Turkish

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Etymology

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Equivalent to tin (spirit, soul) +‎ -sel

Pronunciation

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  • IPA(key): /tinˈsæl/, [t̪in̪ˈs̪æl̠ʲ]
  • Rhymes: -æl
  • Hyphenation: tin‧sel

Adjective

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tinsel

  1. (spiritualism) spiritual
    Synonyms: ruhani, manevi

Further reading

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