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From Middle French estincelle (spark) (compare French étincelle), from Latin scintilla; compare scintillate, stencil.



tinsel (usually uncountable, plural tinsels)

  1. 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.
    • 1675, John Dryden, Aureng-zebe
      Who can discern the tinsel from the gold?
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[1]:
      He stood transfixed before the unaccustomed view of London at night time, a vast panorama which reminded him […] of some wood engravings far off and magical, in a printshop in his childhood. They dated from the previous century and were coarsely printed on tinted paper, with tinsel outlining the design.
  2. 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.
  3. Anything shining and gaudy; something superficially shining and showy, or having a false luster, and more pretty than valuable.
    • William Cowper:
      O happy peasant! O unhappy bard! His the mere tinsel, hers the rich reward.



tinsel (comparative more tinsel, superlative most tinsel)

  1. Glittering, later especially superficially so; gaudy, showy.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.1:
      Her garments all were wrought of beaten gold, / And all her steed with tinsell trappings shone []


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

  1. (transitive) To adorn with tinsel; to deck out with cheap but showy ornaments; to make gaudy.
  2. (figuratively, transitive) To give a false sparkle to (something).

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