namby–pamby

play
adjective nam·by–pam·by \ˌnam-bē-ˈpam-bē\

Definition of namby–pamby

  1. 1 :  lacking in character or substance :  insipid

  2. 2 :  weak, indecisive

namby–pamby

noun

Did You Know?

Eighteenth-century poets Alexander Pope and Henry Carey didn't think much of their contemporary Ambrose Philips. His sentimental, singsong verses were too childish and simple for their palates. In 1726, Carey came up with the rhyming nickname Namby-Pamby (playing on Ambrose) to parody Philips: "Namby-Pamby's doubly mild / Once a man and twice a child ... / Now he pumps his little wits / All by little tiny bits." In 1729, Pope borrowed the nickname to take his own satirical jab at Philips in the poem "The Dunciad." Before long, namby-pamby was being applied to any piece of writing that was insipidly precious, simple, or sentimental, and later to anyone considered pathetically weak or indecisive.

Origin and Etymology of namby–pamby

Namby Pamby, nickname given to Ambrose Philips


First Known Use: 1745


NAMBY–PAMBY Defined for English Language Learners

namby–pamby

play
adjective nam·by–pam·by \ˌnam-bē-ˈpam-bē\

Definition of namby–pamby for English Language Learners

  • : too weak or gentle : not strong or strict enough


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up namby–pamby? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

a weapon for destroying ships

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • winning-words-from-spelling-bee
  • Which is the correct spelling of the winning word from 1988?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!