nam·​by-pam·​by | \ ˌnam-bē-ˈpam-bē How to pronounce namby-pamby (audio) \

Definition of namby-pamby

1 : lacking in character or substance : insipid

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from namby-pamby

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.

First Known Use of namby-pamby

1745, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for namby-pamby

Namby Pamby, nickname given to Ambrose Philips

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about namby-pamby

Time Traveler for namby-pamby

Time Traveler

The first known use of namby-pamby was in 1745

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about namby-pamby

Statistics for namby-pamby

Cite this Entry

“Namby-pamby.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for namby-pamby


How to pronounce namby-pamby (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of namby-pamby

informal + disapproving : too weak or gentle : not strong or strict enough

More from Merriam-Webster on namby-pamby

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for namby-pamby

Comments on namby-pamby

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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