jaw·​bon·​ing ˈjȯ-ˌbō-niŋ How to pronounce jawboning (audio)
: the use of public appeals (as by a president) to influence the actions especially of business and labor leaders
broadly : the use of spoken persuasion

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In the late 1800s, the noun jawbone meant "credit" (as in his money's gone, so he lives on jawbone), which was probably influenced by the practice of coaxing others to lend money by promising to pay it back. By the mid-1960s the verb to jawbone, meaning "to talk about to gain some end," was appearing regularly in the media. The noun jawboning made its print debut at the end of that decade, in reference to rhetorical practices that influenced the actions of the wealthy and powerful. All of these uses were likely influenced by the verb jaw, which has long been used with the meanings "to talk" or "to scold."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Another reason for the endless jawboning about bones is mass confusion over how best to strengthen your skeleton and whether diet and supplements really make a difference. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, 1 Jan. 2023 That jawboning is a big reason why longer-term borrowing costs, such as the 30-year mortgage rate, have jumped sharply since the beginning of the year even though the Fed has raised its benchmark rate only a little bit. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, 4 May 2022 But in both parties, the blaming amounts to little more than political rhetoric and jawboning because neither side is prepared to push for the kind of action that Washington has sometimes resorted to in wartime emergencies. Don Leestaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 6 Apr. 2022 Biden’s best bet is that his jawboning and pushing at the ports and other points along the supply chain can make a difference, while companies untangle the mess over time. Rich Lowry, National Review, 12 Nov. 2021 Another momentous messaging event involved just three little words, and showed the power of this new form of jawboning, when correctly employed. George Calhoun, Forbes, 10 May 2021 Besides jawboning from Trump, who fears that a slowdown could hurt his chances of winning reelection next year, the Fed will almost certainly face pressure to lower rates further from markets as well. Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2019 To apply real influence over the Fed, past administrations have gone beyond jawboning, said Sebastian Mallaby, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a biography of Alan Greenspan, a former Fed chairman. Peter Eavis, New York Times, 5 July 2018 Also limiting the greenback’s upside in the wake of Kudlow’s jawboning might be the new adviser’s relative lack of clout, Marino said. Katherine Greifeld, Bloomberg.com, 15 Mar. 2018 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1969, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of jawboning was in 1969


Dictionary Entries Near jawboning

Cite this Entry

“Jawboning.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jawboning. Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

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