Definition of tattered in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈtadərd/


Old and torn; in poor condition: an old woman in tattered clothes figurative the tattered remnants of his dreams
More example sentences
  • Rich men with tailored suits knelt by poor men in tattered clothes.
  • The labourers were in a bad condition, with tattered clothes and worn-out expressions.
  • Spin and weave every day, for our Mother is in tattered weeds and a poor mother needs clothes to cover her sores.


Middle English (in the sense 'dressed in decoratively slashed or jagged clothing'): apparently originally from the noun tatter 'scrap of cloth' + -ed1; later treated as a past participle.

  • Like tag, tattered is first found relating to the medieval fashion for slashed clothing, in the sense ‘dressed in decoratively slashed or jagged clothing’. Tatter ‘scrap of cloth’ comes from Old Norse tǫtrar ‘rags’. Tatty (early 16th century), originally Scots for ‘tangled, matted, shaggy’, is related, and was shortened to tat ‘worthless articles in the mid 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: tat·tered

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.