namby-pamby was our Word of the Day on 08/20/2016. Hear the podcast!
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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.
Origin and Etymology of namby-pamby
First Known Use: 1745See Words from the same year
Synonymsbanal, flat, insipid, milk-and-water, namby-pamby, watery
Antonymsbackboned, firm, hard, strong, tough
Related Wordsunexciting, uninspiring, unrewarding; bland, boring, drab, dreary, dry, dull, heavy, humdrum, jading, leaden, lifeless, monotonous, pedestrian, ponderous, tedious, tiresome, tiring, uninteresting, vapid, wearisome, weary, wearying; inane; innocuous, inoffensive; mild, soft, subdued, tame, weak; common, commonplace, ordinary, stale, unexceptional
Near Antonymspiquant, poignant, pungent, racy, spicy; meaty, substantial; entertaining, exciting, galvanizing, inspiring, invigorating, thrilling
NAMBY-PAMBY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of namby-pamby for English Language Learners
: too weak or gentle : not strong or strict enough
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