bombast

noun
bom·​bast | \ ˈbäm-ˌbast How to pronounce bombast (audio) \

Definition of bombast

: pretentious inflated speech or writing political bombast

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The original meaning of bombast in English was "cotton or other material used as padding or stuffing." It is derived through Anglo-French bombés or bombace, from a Medieval Latin word (of various forms, including bambax and bombax) meaning "cotton plant, cotton fiber or wadding." Bombax was once thought to be a corruption of bombyx, a Latin (and ultimately Greek) word that means "silkworm" or "silk," although etymologists weren't certain why the shift from silk to cotton occurred. It turns out, however, that bombast's origins are more direct and unassuming: the Latin bombax is not a product of the silky bombyx but was borrowed from the Middle Greek bámbax, pámbax, which in turn probably traces back to the Middle Persian pambak ("cotton"). Bombast is no longer used in the sense of cotton padding or stuffing, but the word has been retained in modern English in a figurative sense referring to speech or writing that is stuffed or padded with pretense and unnecessary verbiage.

Examples of bombast in a Sentence

the other world leaders at the international conference had little interest in being subjected to the president's bombast you need less bombast and more substance in this speech on human rights
Recent Examples on the Web This is important, because a love of metal gives you a sophisticated relationship with bombast. James Parker, The Atlantic, 5 May 2022 The bombast is a response, a defense, a pose, a stance. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 But some Conti members display the bombast of cybercriminals caught driving luxury cars and storing piles of cash. Matt Burgess, Wired, 16 Mar. 2022 Still, Platinum's expertise with frantic action games may pump excitement and new ideas into the long-in-the-tooth JRPG tactics genre, and Platinum's love of ridiculous visual bombast is on full display in today's new trailer. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, 9 Mar. 2022 Wirtz appeared closed off, belligerent and defensive, characteristics that before Wednesday’s display of bombast had been more publicly associated with his father, the late Hawks Chairman Bill Wirtz, than himself. Phil Thompson, chicagotribune.com, 3 Feb. 2022 In stripping away the bombast of Ono’s rendition, Zauner highlights the emotional fragility and vulnerability at the song’s core. Rolling Stone, 27 Jan. 2022 Newsrooms are often led by Type A personalities full of bombast. John Blake And Brandon Griggs, CNN, 28 Dec. 2021 The words are expressionistic paint strokes, bringing you straight into the heart of these characters with deft bombast. Rian Johnson, Variety, 22 Dec. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bombast.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bombast

1583, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bombast

earlier, "cotton or other material used as padding or stuffing," extension (with parasitic t) of bombace, bombage, going back to Middle English bombace, borrowed from Anglo-French bombés, bombace, borrowed from Medieval Latin bambac-, bambax, bombax (also banbax, bonbax) "cotton plant, cotton fiber or wadding," borrowed from Middle Greek bámbax, pámbax, going back to a Greek stem pambak- (as in pambakís "item of clothing, probably of cotton"), probably borrowed from Middle Persian pambak "cotton" (or from an unknown source from which both words were borrowed)

Note: At virtually all stages of this etymon's history there has been formal and semantic confusion with Latin bombyx "silk" and its congeners (hence the o in the English, French, and Latin forms; see note at bombazine), though the two words are very likely of distinct origin. The earliest European occurrence of the "cotton" word is pambakís, denoting an item of apparel in an epigram attributed to Myrinus (1st century b.c.e. or earlier) in the Palatine Anthology (VI, 254). In some manuscripts of Dioscorides' treatise on materia medica (1st century c.e.) bambakoeidḗs "cotton-like" is used in the description of a plant (other witnesses give bombykoeidḗs "silklike"). Greek bámbax and pámbax, as well as a derivative, bambákion, are attested in the 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia Suda/Souda, which cites the epigram by Myrinus (see Suda On Line at www.stoa.org/sol/). The Medieval Latin forms are well attested in texts of the Salerno medical school, as the Tractatus de aegritudinum curatione, part of the now lost Breslau Codex Salernitanus (ca. 1200); see citations under bombyx, sense 2, in the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch.

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The first known use of bombast was in 1583

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bombast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bombast. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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