mid-15c., "a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread," from Anglo-French tencele, Old French estencele, estincelle "spark, spangle" (see stencil (n.)). "In 14-15th c. Fr., the s of es- had long been mute" [OED]. Meaning "very thin sheets or strips of shiny metal" is recorded from 1590s. Figurative sense of "anything showy with little real worth" is from 1650s, suggested from at least 1590s. Use of Tinseltown for "Hollywood" is by 1972.