The shiny silver strands hanging from the branches of a Christmas tree are called tinsel. Tinsel is older than you might think—it was invented in 1610!

Tinsel was designed to mimic the way ice looks, and the earliest tinsel was made from strips of real silver (today's tinsel is PVC plastic with a metallic coating). It's a traditional Christmas decoration that is also frequently used in India for wedding celebrations and other ceremonies. You can also use the word tinsel to refer to things that look fancy but are actually worthless—which is where Hollywood's nickname, Tinseltown, comes from.

Definitions of tinsel

n a thread with glittering metal foil attached

Type of:
thread, yarn
a fine cord of twisted fibers (of cotton or silk or wool or nylon etc.) used in sewing and weaving

n a showy decoration that is basically valueless

“all the tinsel of self-promotion”
Type of:
decoration, ornament, ornamentation
something used to beautify

v adorn with tinsel

“snow flakes tinseled the trees”
Type of:
adorn, beautify, decorate, embellish, grace, ornament
make more attractive by adding ornament, colour, etc.

v interweave with tinsel

tinseled velvet”
Type of:
interweave, weave
interlace by or as if by weaving

v impart a cheap brightness to

“his tinseled image of Hollywood”
Type of:
add, bestow, bring, contribute, impart, lend
bestow a quality on

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