Word for Wednesday: Tinsel

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Have you noticed a Christmas theme in our Word for Wednesday posts? 

Last week we looked at the word trim, and today’s word is something you might use when trimming your tree: tinsel.

Tinsel is a type of Christmas decoration made up of strips of shiny metal foil attached to a thread. 

Used during the Christmas season to adorn everything from trees, to picture frames, to ponytails; tinsel is often a divisive subject. While some love it, others deem it gaudy. In fact, the word is sometimes used figuratively to describe something that is superficially glamorous but ultimately cheap. 

Here is the word used in some example sentences: 

  • Every Christmas they fell out while decorating because she loved tinsel and he thought it was tacky. 
  • The tinsel sparkled on the tree. 
  • He was infatuated by the tinsel of the literary world. 
  • Tinseltown is another name for Hollywood.

The word dates back to the mid-fifteenth century when it was used to describe ‘a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread’. It derives from the Middle French ‘estincelle’ which means ‘spark’ or ‘spangle’ and is also the root of the word ‘stencil’. 

Tinsel has been used in its figurative sense since at least the 1650s and the first recorded use of Tinseltown is from 1972. 

Do you love tinsel or hate it? Let us know in the comments!

11 Dec 2019
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