bun·​kum ˈbəŋ-kəm How to pronounce bunkum (audio)
variants or buncombe
: insincere or foolish talk : nonsense

Did you know?

Some words in the English language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents' behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker's district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome "speech for Buncombe." His persistent—if insignificant—harangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.

Example Sentences

What a load of bunkum! a cinematic depiction of the Middle Ages that was derided as pure bunkum by historians
Recent Examples on the Web Behind the image was a fair bit of bunkum. James Gleick, The New York Review of Books, 13 Apr. 2021 The Telegraph's article immediately drew sharp responses from other journalists, who dismissed the report as bunkum. Smriti Rao, Discover Magazine, 15 Mar. 2010 Unfortunately, but somewhat predictably, the press has fallen for Bukele’s bunkum hook, line, and sinker. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 18 Sep. 2021 Reich makes $300,000 a year teaching anti-capitalist bunkum to impressionable young minds — on top of at least $40,000 per hour giving speeches around the country. David Harsanyi, National Review, 5 May 2021 But like many others on the right, Peterson is ultimately motivated by an inability to let bunkum prevail unchallenged. Kyle Smith, National Review, 30 Oct. 2019 Almost no records survived, though, so the history of the Pony Express is littered with impostors, inaccuracies, and plain bunkum. National Geographic, 23 June 2018 For sixteen seasons, John Elway let all the bunkum bounce off his big shoulders. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, 23 May 2017 Or maybe the name was inspired by someone muttering something about a load of bunkum. Janet Eastman, OregonLive.com, 21 May 2017 See More

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

Word History


Buncombe county, North Carolina; from a remark made by its congressman, who defended an irrelevant speech by claiming that he was speaking to Buncombe

First Known Use

1838, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bunkum was in 1838


Dictionary Entries Near bunkum

Cite this Entry

“Bunkum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bunkum. Accessed 4 Jun. 2023.

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