Bric-a-brac and knick-knack

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Bric-a-brac and knick-knack are words that refer to the same thing. We will examine the definition of the words bric-a-brac and knick-knack, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Bric-a-brac describes a variety of decorative objects that are displayed on shelves, tables and mantelpieces in the home. Bric-a-brac came into use in the Victorian era, when various inexpensive objets d’art were used to enhance the home environment. Bric-a-brac consisted of small items such as vases, wax flowers under glass domes, collages made of butterfly wings, porcelain figures and painted miniatures. Today, the term bric-a-brac usually refers to decorative items that are old-fashioned or less than tasteful. The word bric-a-brac is derived from the archaic French term à bric et à brac, dating from the 1500s and meaning at random or a little here and a little there. Bric-a-brac may be used as a singular or a plural.

A knick-knack is an inexpensive decorative object displayed on shelves, tables and mantelpieces in the home. The plural form is knickknacks. The word knick-knack was first used in the 1500s to mean a clever toy or trinket. For a time, the word knick-knack meant a petty trick. Today, it only means a decorative object in the home and is a synonym of bric-a-brac.


“The ladies of the CWA are also participating and are hoping to see lots of visitors at their hall to shop for bric-a-brac and stay for a cuppa and a chat.”  (The Coffs Coast Advocate)

“We’d also welcome any accessories, toys, books and bric-a-brac to restock our shelves.” (The Somerset County Gazette)

J.W. Mercer’s set functions as an apt metaphor for the sudden collapse of Shelah’s world, but nothing in its decor (a religious picture, for example, or a treasured knick-knack) seems to relate personally to her. (LA Weekly)