The Meaning of Tacky: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of tacky? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word tacky, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word tacky mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, The word tacky (pronunciation: ˈtækɪ) is an adjective that can either describe something that is sticky to the touch, or something that is marked by a cheap showing us, lack of style, or lack of good breeding. Something that is tacky does not have or exhibit good taste. Related words include the noun tackiness, as well as tackier and tackiest. These all use different suffixes to form words – ness, er, and est. This word is heavily associated with American English and he would not typically see it used in the UK or anywhere British English is used. This word is of obscure origin. Some things that could be described as tacky are tacky varnish, a tacky 3M adhesive, a tacky adhesive wall mount, or tacky rubber material, a dot of tacky glue or other tacky stuff you might use to stick to the bottom surface of a little houseplant to keep it from moving. This tacky wax is known as museum wax. 

Things like tawdry ornaments, a flashy ring, a gaudy costume, large gold neck rings, cheesy 70s-inspired table lamps, tacky costume jewelry, tacky art and crafts, tacky drapes or furnishing or a tacky restaurant which has garish colors or decor in poor taste can be described as tacky. Sometimes, tacky things might be evoking the concept of camp or kitsch art or have an ironic nature in their absence of style. Other times, these aesthetics are simply sentimental art that one cannot throw away. Either way, this artwork evokes vulgar manners and persons of low ideas. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean tacky. You might notice that some of these words look similar to one another. These are called cognates. Cognates or when 2 words that mean the same thing look and sound similar in different languages. These are usually formed when two words have the same language of origin or root. This list of translations for the word tacky is provided by Word Sense

  •  Spanish: chopo (Dominican Republic), naco (Mexico)
  •  Esperanto: malbongusta‎
  •  Tagalog: baduy‎
  •  French: quétaine‎ (Quebec)
  •  Russian: безвку́сный‎
  •  Dutch: smakeloos‎
  •  German: geschmacklos‎
  •  Portuguese: de mau gosto‎, brega‎, cafona‎, piroso‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: di cattivo gusto, tamarro‎
  •  Finnish: mauton‎, tyylitön‎

How can the word tacky be used in the sentence?

The word tacky can be used in many different ways in the English language to describe things that are sticky or things that are in poor taste. 

The gaudy furnishings, tacky neon lights, and pinky-brown covering on portions of the wallpaper made the bachelor pad feel like a cheap 70s nightclub.

Lisa used the tacky craft glue on the construction paper to make some fun tacky costume jewellery for Dana to wear. 

Blair stuck tacky museum wax to the bottom of our cups according to the manufacturer’s instructions to keep them from shifting on the windowsill when the blinds move. 

Samuel’s tacky costumes strips of silver foil paper and tacky metal adornments that embarrassed Rachel on their night out. 

The tacky choice of entertainment ruined part of my special day and I flt that my guests would never return. The performance was in bad taste. 

His sport shirts and flash car did not make him look like he was worth a fortune, they made him look tacky 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word tacky?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word tacky. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary, and it can help you avoid repeating yourself in writing and spoken word. This list of synonyms for the word tacky is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  outmoded
  •  dilapidated
  •  untidy
  •  broken-down
  •  shoddy
  •  run-down
  •  unkempt
  •  mangy
  •  nasty
  •  crude
  •  inelegant
  •  down-at-heel
  •  frumpy
  •  vulgar
  •  stodgy
  •  ratty
  •  faded
  •  sleazy
  •  out-of-date
  •  dingy
  •  seedy
  •  unbecoming
  •  dowdy
  •  slovenly
  •  poky
  •  unsuitable
  •  sloppy
  •  messy
  •  shabby
  •  unstylish
  •  gaudy
  •  threadbare


There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word tacky. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word tacky is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  posh
  •  elegant
  •  swanky
  •  gracious
  •  exclusive
  •  urbane
  •  finespun
  •  nice
  •  fine
  •  swank
  •  mod
  •  plush
  •  classy
  •  courtly
  •  high-brow
  •  fastidious
  •  discriminating
  •  courteous
  •  sophisticated
  •  tasteful
  •  select
  •  tony
  •  dashing
  •  delicate
  •  in vogue
  •  high-class
  •  high-minded
  •  modish
  •  fashionable
  •  snazzy
  •  precise
  •  genteel
  •  ritzy
  •  cultivated
  •  sharp
  •  punctilious
  •  aesthetic
  •  in
  •  polite
  •  refined
  •  well-mannered
  •  sublime
  •  uptown
  •  civil
  •  sensitive
  •  superior
  •  subtle
  •  chic
  •  suave
  •  discerning
  •  restrained
  •  well-bred
  •  enlightened
  •  spiffy
  •  polished
  •  exact

What is the origin of the word tacky?

According to Etymonline, the word tacky has been used to mean sticky since 1788. This is related to the earlier tack, meaning stickiness. This American English word has been used to mean in poor taste since 1888, and comes from shabby or seedy. It was originally used to refer to an ill-fed or neglected horse or small horse or pony, and was later extended to people in a similar way to hillbilly or cracker. This word is of unknown origin, but it is certainly a southern colloquialism from the southern states of the US that was coined by the wealthier or more refined class to talk about people of a lower class. This southern dialect word was originally used to describe an inferior horse that was owned by a poor farmer.

Overall, the word tacky means either sticky or in bad taste. This word is of uncertain origin, but likely comes from a southern US colloquialism describing cheap horses.


  1. tacky: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. TACKY Synonyms: 41 Synonyms & Antonyms for TACKY  | Thesaurus
  3. REFINED Synonyms: 78 Synonyms & Antonyms for REFINED | Thesaurus 
  4. tacky | Origin and meaning of tacky | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Tacky | Definition of Tacky | Merriam-Webster