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 The feral commitment of a Trump rally—or the messianic bombast of the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns—has clearly been judged too risky. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Donald Trump’s Reelection Campaign Is Total Camp," 30 Oct. 2020 Offering unchallenged bombast is always his central goal. Bill Carter For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "NBC's Trump town hall will likely be a train wreck — and viewers will flock to it," 15 Oct. 2020 The other side may seem completely wrong about everything, but isn’t there a possibility that there may be the slightest smidgeon of right lurking under the bombast? Dallas News, "A serious topic not: Take a break from the world," 25 Oct. 2020 Snyder announced the creation of the Original Americans Foundation with bombast in 2014 amid ongoing criticism of the team name. Tom Schad, USA TODAY, "Washington Football Team ends relationship with Daniel Snyder's charitable foundation for Native Americans," 19 Nov. 2020 The TikTok fiasco is a product of cronyism, empty bombast, and nationalism—a political recipe that, historically, America has tended to criticize in its opponents. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "The TikTok Fiasco Reflects the Bankruptcy of Trump’s Foreign Policy," 25 Sep. 2020 But this expensive update adds nothing except empty bombast. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Mulan Is a War Movie With a Dash of Magic," 4 Sep. 2020 Biden, with his odes to unity and old-fashioned statesmanship, is tapping into an unmistakable weariness from the bombast, the braggadocio, the petulance, the defensiveness and the diplomatic amateurishness of President Donald Trump. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: A country united only by its shared exhaustion," 31 Oct. 2020 The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a document of laughable bombast, but sinister implications. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "A Useful Pandemic: Davos Launches New ‘Reset,’ this Time on the Back of COVID," 29 Oct. 2020

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 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

16 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bombast.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for bombast



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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