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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Did You Know?

The original meaning of "bombast" (now obsolete) is "cotton or any soft fibrous material used as padding or stuffing." It is derived through Middle French bombace, from Medieval Latin bombax, which means "cotton." "Bombax" in turn comes from "bombyx," a Latin and ultimately Greek word that means "silkworm" or "silk." Etymologists aren't certain why the shift from silk to cotton occurred, though one source attributes it to an error going back to the Roman scholar Pliny, who had reported that cotton was produced by an insect analogous to the silkworm. "Bombast" has been retained in modern English because it took on a figurative sense used in reference to speech or writing. Thus the basic sense of "stuffing or padding" has survived, but now the stuffing consists of words rather than cotton.

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

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty—trafficking and bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. WSJ, "Former President Barack Obama’s Remarks at McCain Memorial," 1 Sep. 2018 Colleagues soon found Kennedy to be an odd combination of bombast and self-effacement. Massimo Calabresi, Time, "With Justice Kennedy Gone, It's Trump's Court Now," 28 June 2018 And the orchestral score, with particular emphasis on floaty woodwinds, choral arrangements, and thundering drums, preserves the fantasy-battling tone of a good Dota 2 session while also dialing back on drama or bombast. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Exclusive: Valve walks us through Artifact’s new demo, leaves us wanting more," 31 Aug. 2018 Meanwhile, beyond the tweets and bombast, the machine that sends immigrants from arrest to deportation will clank along with alarming efficiency until it’s stopped by a new administration — long after Sessions is gone. Dara Lind, Vox, "Jeff Sessions gave Trump the immigration crackdown he wanted," 7 Nov. 2018 But now Yakuza Kiwami 2’s slightly forgettable bombast has been cleaned up for the PlayStation 4. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2 gets cleaned up for PS4," 28 Aug. 2018 Conductor Mark Elder reveled in both the bombast and the intimacy of the score. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "‘Samson et Dalila’ and ‘Aida’ Reviews: A New Direction Takes a Familiar Course," 1 Oct. 2018 So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insults and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Read Barack Obama’s eulogy for Sen. John McCain," 1 Sep. 2018 Eschewing the heroic, monumental approach which for centuries was sculpture’s default mode, his figures are evocations of disquiet and discontent that fit a world disillusioned with bombast. The Economist, "How Alberto Giacometti became a legend," 14 June 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for bombast

Last Updated

17 May 2019

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Time Traveler for bombast

The first known use of bombast was in 1583

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More Definitions for bombast

bombast

noun

English Language Learners Definition of bombast

formal : speech or writing that is meant to sound important or impressive but is not sincere or meaningful

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More from Merriam-Webster on bombast

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bombast

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Spanish Central: Translation of bombast

Nglish: Translation of bombast for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bombast for Arabic Speakers

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