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 problem is that language itself has had the meaning drained out of it by a combination of insincerity, repetition and bombast. Susanna Lee, The Conversation, "We’re living in the bizarre world that Flaubert envisioned," 10 Jan. 2020 The blaring horns and martial percussion set the mood, but amidst the bombast is a song about the grueling decision to cut off a relationship. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 25 Best K-pop Songs of 2019: Critics' Picks," 29 Dec. 2019 Trump's more outrageous bombast may prove an even more flimsy construct, not just failing once but multiple times. Nic Robertson, CNN, "Saudi Arabia has a great deal more to lose from a war than Iran does," 20 Sep. 2019 Chris Lord-Alge, a go-to industry pro known for his ability to crank up the kind of bombast that appealed to commercial radio programmers, was hired to beef up the tracks. Greg Kot,, "R.E.M., the Replacements and the albums that nearly broke them," 5 Nov. 2019 By leaving bombast out of his speech last week and even appearing before the cameras in a Western-style suit and tie, Mr. Kim clearly wants to be seen as a statesman. Choe Sang-hun And David E. Sanger, New York Times, "North Korea Moves Toward Détente With Seoul," 9 Jan. 2018 Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the album is a glorious combination of Dusty Springfield-esque retro pop goodness and deep-rooted country soul that moves from whispered intimacy to widescreen bombast. Sarah Rodman,, "Yola performs "It Ain't Easier" for EW's In the Basement," 13 Dec. 2019 During the 2016 campaign, one way Trump saved money was by leveraging his celebrity, bombast and larger-than-life personality to attract coverage in the media. Author: Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Anu Narayanswamy, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump’s 2016 campaign was run on a shoestring. His reelection machine is huge - and armed with consultants.," 9 Oct. 2019 Before the moon landing, movie music for space travel mostly dealt in fantasy as well, whether with Wagnerian bombast or ghostly theremin. Tim Greiving, Los Angeles Times, "Hollywood Bowl concert goes to outer space, from ‘The Planets’ to ‘First Man’," 15 Aug. 2019

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

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bombast.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for bombast


How to pronounce bombast (audio)

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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bombast

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bombast

Spanish Central: Translation of bombast

Nglish: Translation of bombast for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bombast for Arabic Speakers

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