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taw·dry / ˈtôdrē/ • adj. (-dri·er, -dri·est) showy but cheap and of poor quality: tawdry jewelry. ∎  sordid or unpleasant: the tawdry business of politics.• n. archaic cheap and gaudy finery.DERIVATIVES: taw·dri·ly / -drəlē/ adv.taw·dri·ness n.ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: short for tawdry lace, a fine silk lace or ribbon worn as a necklace in the 16th–17th centuries, contraction of St. Audrey's lace: Audrey was a later form of Etheldrida (died 679), patron saint of Ely, England, where tawdry laces, along with cheap imitations and other cheap finery, were traditionally sold at a fair.