insipid

adjective
in·​sip·​id | \ in-ˈsi-pəd How to pronounce insipid (audio) \

Definition of insipid

1 : lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge : dull, flat insipid prose
2 : lacking taste or savor : tasteless insipid food

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Other Words from insipid

insipidity \ ˌin-​sə-​ˈpi-​də-​tē How to pronounce insipidity (audio) \ noun
insipidly \ in-​ˈsi-​pəd-​lē How to pronounce insipidly (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for insipid

insipid, vapid, flat, jejune, banal, inane mean devoid of qualities that make for spirit and character. insipid implies a lack of sufficient taste or savor to please or interest. an insipid romance with platitudes on every page vapid suggests a lack of liveliness, force, or spirit. an exciting story given a vapid treatment flat applies to things that have lost their sparkle or zest. although well-regarded in its day, the novel now seems flat jejune suggests a lack of rewarding or satisfying substance. a jejune and gassy speech banal stresses the complete absence of freshness, novelty, or immediacy. a banal tale of unrequited love inane implies a lack of any significant or convincing quality. an inane interpretation of the play

Insipid vs. Incipient

There are those who claim that these two words are commonly confused, though the collected evidence in our files don’t support that claim (in edited prose, that is). If there is confusion, it is likely because incipient is sometimes used in constructions where its meaning is not clear.

Insipid is less common than incipient, but it is used more in general prose and with much more clarity than incipient is. Insipid means “weak,” and it can refer to people (“insipid hangers-on”), things (“what an insipid idea,” “painted the room an insipid blue,” “he gave his boss an insipid smile”), and specifically flavors or foods (“an insipid soup,” “the cocktail was insipid and watery”).

Incipient, on the other hand, is more common than insipid is and means “beginning to come into being or become apparent.” It has general use (“an incipient idea,” “incipient racial tensions”), but also has extensive specialized use in medicine (“an incipient disease”) and other scientific fields (“an incipient star in a distant galaxy”). But general use of incipient is sometime vague at best:

But devaluing grand slams to 3 1/2 runs has irked even the guys it was meant to pacify. "They're messing with the game," says incipient slugger Randy Johnson (three grannies already this spring). "Not to mention my RBI totals."
ESPN, 14 June 1999

Among my generation of aesthetes, bohemians, proto-dropouts, and incipient eternal students at Sydney University in the late 1950s, Robert Hughes was the golden boy.
— Clive James, The New York Review, 11 Jan. 2007

This menu looks traditional but embraces ingredients and ideas that have become incipient classics in American cuisine, such as portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and mango.
— Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 30 Nov. 1995

Incipient is rarely used of people, and so the first example is an atypical use of the word. As for the other examples, can something that is just beginning to emerge be eternal, or a classic? Uses like this tend to confuse the reader.

If you find yourself unsure of which word to use, follow the rule that when referring to someone or something weak, use insipid, and when referring to something that is newly apparent or newly begun, use incipient.

Examples of insipid in a Sentence

While it is fashionable to write off that decade as an insipid time, one long pajama party, the '50s, in sport at least, were a revolutionary age. — Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 27 Dec. 1999–31 Jan. 2000 I'd climbed and fished in the emptiest reaches of the American West, but Alaska made the wilds of the lower 48 seem insipid and tame, a toothless simulacrum. — Jon Krakauer, Smithsonian, June 1995 By contrast, what we know as "popular" or "mass" culture has always conformed to the most insipid prejudices, and the least subtle formulations, of society. — Joyce Carol Oates, The Profane Art, 1983 One evening, over beers, Rasala complained about some insipid movie recently shown on TV. — Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine, 1981 The soup was rather insipid. an apple pie with a mushy, insipid filling that strongly resembled soggy cardboard
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Recent Examples on the Web Charity matches can be quite insipid affairs with nothing really on the line. SI.com, "Soccer Aid 2019: The Best Moments From the Charity Match's History," 16 June 2019 But the countryside proves just as bleak: free trade has devastated agriculture, farmers are resorting to violence, and insipid liberal notions of progress have stripped the world of eros and beauty. John Gregory Dunne, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 2 Dec. 2019 After two-plus quarters of insipid play that included four turnovers, a pick-six interception, and a safety conceded on the first offensive play in the second half, Josh Allen rallied the Bills from a 16-point third quarter deficit. Si Wire, SI.com, "Bills vs. Giants Live Stream: Watch Online, TV Channel, Time," 15 Sep. 2019 Jar Jar Binks is an insipid scaly rabbit-frog who never needed to exist, and porgs are a mostly plot-irrelevant bit of filler designed to mask puffin infiltration. Wired, "Love Baby Yoda, You Must," 22 Nov. 2019 There is vast mainstream of insipid choral music that is easy to digest yet ultimately forgettable. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: American choral works about love and death wonderfully sung by Sacra/Profana," 19 Oct. 2019 Excepting the sung ones, almost every word that ever came out of John Lennon’s mouth was insipid and banal. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Gospel According to Kanye," 7 Nov. 2019 West Ham's list of strikers in the Gold-Sullivan era is, well, insipid. SI.com, "9 Premier League Signings That Are Definitely 100% Without a Doubt Going to Flop This Season," 20 Aug. 2019 In May the mayor herself, Catherine Pugh, was forced to resign from office after a scandal involving bulk purchases of her insipid children’s book by companies who did business with the city. The Economist, "Baltimore needs help to fix its crime problems," 1 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'insipid.' 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 insipid

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for insipid

French & Late Latin; French insipide, from Late Latin insipidus, from Latin in- + sapidus savory, from sapere to taste — more at sage

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Time Traveler for insipid

Time Traveler

The first known use of insipid was in 1609

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Statistics for insipid

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Insipid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insipidity. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for insipid

insipid

adjective
How to pronounce insipid (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of insipid

formal
: not interesting or exciting : dull or boring
: lacking strong flavor

insipid

adjective
in·​sip·​id | \ in-ˈsi-pəd How to pronounce insipid (audio) \

Kids Definition of insipid

1 : having little taste or flavor
2 : not interesting or challenging

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More from Merriam-Webster on insipid

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for insipid

Spanish Central: Translation of insipid

Nglish: Translation of insipid for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of insipid for Arabic Speakers

Comments on insipid

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