namby-pamby

adjective
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

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Other Words from namby-pamby

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.

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

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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 19 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for namby-pamby

namby-pamby

adjective
How to pronounce namby-pamby (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of namby-pamby

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

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