Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
December 12th, 2015
Episode 399 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 12, 2015 is: tawdry \TAW-dree\ adjective : cheap and gaudy in appearance or quality; also : ignoble Examples: Tom and Pam found themselves in an unfamiliar section of the city, walking by tawdry storefronts and shady bars. "I'd be lying if I said I never shared some of the tawdry tales I learned about players along the way." Roxanne Jones, CNN.com, 8 Oct. 2015 Did you know? In the 7th century, Etheldreda, the queen of Northumbria, renounced her husband and her royal position for the veil of a nun. She was renowned for her saintliness and is traditionally said to have died of a swelling in her throat, which she took as a judgment upon her fondness for wearing necklaces in her youth. Her shrine became a principal site of pilgrimage in England. An annual fair was held in her honor on October 17th, and her name became simplified to St. Audrey. At these fairs various kinds of cheap knickknacks were sold, along with a type of necklace called St. Audrey's lace, which by the 16th century had become altered to tawdry lace. Eventually, tawdry came to be used to describe anything cheap and gaudy that might be found at these fairs or anywhere else.