bom·​bast ˈbäm-ˌbast How to pronounce bombast (audio)
: pretentious inflated speech or writing
political bombast

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Bombast settled softly into English in the mid-late 16th century as a textile term used to refer to cotton or other soft fibrous material used as padding or stuffing (its ultimate source is likely Middle Persian pambak, meaning “cotton”), but within a decade it had extended from literal stuffing to figurative stuffing, referring to speech or writing that is padded with pretentious verbiage. The adjective bombastic, which followed bombast a century later, has been a favorite choice to describe blowhards, boasters, and cockalorums ever since.

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 With Branagh going for broke visually, the score wisely takes a different tack, sliding in and out of the plot’s machinations without a lot of bombast. Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, 14 Sep. 2023 At those early shows, the crowd was noticeably older and, from the looks of the T-shirts in the audience, included a lot of devoted Led Zeppelin fans pinning their love for Seventies rock bombast on this group of kids from Frankenmuth, Michigan. Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone, 15 Aug. 2023 Portrayed by Melvin Gregg with a mix of bombast and street allure, Skemes comes by his nickname honestly. Lisa Kennedy, Variety, 28 Mar. 2023 Which means more maturity and pragmatism and less performative bombast and schoolyard antics. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2023 Utopia is most effective as a survey of 15 years of trends in stadium rap, a sound steeped in the bombast of Ye records. Vulture, 2 Aug. 2023 Much of this comes down to taste in directors: What’s more impressive, the sleek visual elegance of Brian De Palma, the fiery bombast of John Woo or the overall consistency of Christopher McQuarrie, who has steered the last three movies? Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, 11 July 2023 Schreiber is nicely understated and paternal, toning down his more natural bombast and offering caring support for Powley, Brooke and the note-perfect — precocious but not too precocious — Boullet. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 May 2023 President Biden’s rhetorical bombast is both unwarranted and dishonest. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, 18 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bombast.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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 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.

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bombast was in 1583


Dictionary Entries Near bombast

Cite this Entry

“Bombast.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


bom·​bast ˈbäm-ˌbast How to pronounce bombast (audio)
: boastful speech or writing

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