namby-pamby

adjective

nam·​by-pam·​by ˌnam-bē-ˈpam-bē How to pronounce namby-pamby (audio)
1
: lacking in character or substance : insipid
2
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.

Word History

Etymology

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

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Cite this Entry

“Namby-pamby.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/namby-pamby. Accessed 4 Feb. 2023.

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