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

Dictionary Entries Near namby-pamby




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for namby-pamby

Cite this Entry

“Namby-pamby.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for namby-pamby



English Language Learners Definition of namby-pamby

: too weak or gentle : not strong or strict enough


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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