Word Wednesday.

Meretricious / Vapid / Poppycock



1: of or relating to a prostitute: having the nature of prostitution, meretricious relationships.

2a: tawdrily and falsely attractive. b: superficially significant: pretentious.

-meretriciously, adverb.

-meretriciousness, noun.

[Origin: Latin, meretricius, from meretric-, meretrix prostitute, from merēre to earn.]


“I’ll say you’re right,” said Mark. “Unfortunately, Miss Marple, we didn’t realize that. We wondered what the old boy saw in that rather insipid and meretricious little bag of tricks.”


Adjective: lacking liveliness, tang, briskness, or force: Flat, Dull.

-vapidly, adverb.

-vapidness, noun.

[Origin: Latin vapidus flat-tasting; akin to Latin vappa flat wine and perhaps to Latin vapor steam.]


“His face grim, Conway Jefferson lay remembering and thinking. Before his eyes he saw again the pretty, vapid face of Ruby.”


Noun: empty talk or writing: nonsense.

[Origin: Dutch dialect pappekak, literally, soft dung, from Dutch pap pap + kak dung.]


“And she didn’t care tuppence for Mr. Jefferson. All that play of affection and gratitude was so much poppycock.”

All quotes from The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie.


  1. says

    Well, that’s my one new thing learned for today. The origin of meretricious. (Also, it’s a word I have to remind myself of the meaning of. It sounds more like a compliment to me. Prob’ly ’cause if the similarity with merit.)

  2. says

    The origins of that word, basically from ‘to earn’, but of course that means prostitution if applied to a woman. From the few times I heard it when I was young, it always translated to deceitful in my head. I imagine it’s used incorrectly a lot.

  3. jazzlet says

    I made the same mistake as Daz about meretricious for the same reason, a danger of reading beyond ones vocabulary from a young age and not always stopping to check a word if the story was carrying me along. I also had no idea of the origin of poppycock, which is delightful.

  4. says


    I also had no idea of the origin of poppycock, which is delightful.

    Neither did I, and was also delighted. I had no idea it basically meant soft shit.

  5. voyager says

    I have read and misunderstood the word meretricious too. I also thought it had something to do with merit. It seemed like one of those words I didn’t need to look up. Bit of a difference, though, isn’t there.

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