- something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.
- tawdry, vulgarized, or pretentious art, literature, etc, usually with popular or sentimental appeal
- (as modifier)a kitsch plaster bust of Beethoven
1926, from German kitsch, literally “gaudy, trash,” from dialectal kitschen “to smear.”
What we English people call ugliness in German art is simply the furious reaction against what Germans call süsses Kitsch, the art of the picture postcard, and of what corresponds to the royalty ballad. It has for years been their constant reproach against us that England is the great country of Kitsch. Many years ago a German who loved England only too well said to me, ‘I like your English word plain; it is a word for which we have no equivalent in German, because all German women are plain.’ He might well have balanced it by saying that English has no equivalent for the word Kitsch. [Edward J. Dent, “The Music of Arnold Schönberg,” “The Living Age,” July 9, 1921]
Works of art and other objects (such as furniture) that are meant to look costly but actually are in poor taste.