nam·​by-pam·​by ˌnam-bē-ˈpam-bē How to pronounce namby-pamby (audio)
: lacking in character or substance : insipid
namby-pamby noun

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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.

Examples of namby-pamby in a Sentence

she's such a namby-pamby nothing that it's no wonder she's never asked out mocked namby-pamby intellectuals who endlessly debate the pros and cons of everything and invariably end up accomplishing nothing
Recent Examples on the Web Walzer’s dissent was namby-pamby. John B. Judis, The New Republic, 19 Mar. 2023

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

Word History


Namby Pamby, nickname given to Ambrose Philips

First Known Use

1745, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of namby-pamby was in 1745


Dictionary Entries Near namby-pamby

Cite this Entry

“Namby-pamby.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

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