pab·​u·​lum | \ ˈpa-byə-ləm How to pronounce pabulum (audio) \

Definition of pabulum

1 : food especially : a suspension or solution of nutrients in a state suitable for absorption Roots deliver pabulum to the plant.
2 : intellectual sustenance pabulum for consideration and reflection
3 : something (such as writing or speech) that is insipid, simplistic, or bland wrote pabulum that was intended to offend no one

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Pabulum derives from the Latin term for "food" or "fodder" and was first used in English in the 17th century for anything taken in by plants or animals to maintain life and growth. Within 30 years of its first appearance in English texts, it was also being used to refer to things so intellectually stimulating or nourishing that they could be considered food for thought. But the word took on a whole new flavor in the 1930s when a team of Canadian doctors formulated a highly nutritious (but bland) baby cereal and named their product "Pablum" (based on the Latin word). As a result, the similar-looking "pabulum" did a linguistic about-face and is now often used for things that are bland and unstimulating as well as for things that are intellectually sustaining.

Examples of pabulum in a Sentence

we have reached a cultural low if reality television is regarded as pabulum for the masses
Recent Examples on the Web Twitter account, which spouted pabulum about the decency of the human spirit, became extremely popular. New York Times, 17 Nov. 2021 Try to imagine Britain’s prime minister rallying his nation to fight the Nazi war machine armed with this progressive pabulum. Joseph Loconte, National Review, 9 Sep. 2020 After quoting extensively from a Communist writer, Kengor dismisses the content of the quotation out of hand without making any argument: This, of course, is relativistic pabulum. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 3 Sep. 2020 His onscreen counterpart in the film adaptation of this story, Memoir of a Murderer, trades in this complexity for more standard antihero pabulum (his only desire is to keep Eunhui safe). Alana Mohamed, The Atlantic, 11 June 2019 The pabulum that passes for most reviews is an insult to the intelligence of most readers. Christian Lorentzen, Harper's magazine, 10 Apr. 2019 They are just being fed this pabulum of leftist ideology. Fox News, 25 Apr. 2018 Direct pronouncements from him are so rare that even this pabulum was treated as push-alert-worthy news. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2018 And the realities of international diplomacy have, over decades, led spokespeople for presidents of both parties to offer near-identical pabulum on some of America's most vexing foreign policy questions. Matt Lehrich, CNN, 26 May 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pabulum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of pabulum

circa 1661, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pabulum

Latin, food, fodder; akin to Latin pascere to feed — more at food

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The first known use of pabulum was circa 1661

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Cite this Entry

“Pabulum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for pabulum


pab·​u·​lum | \ ˈpab-yə-ləm How to pronounce pabulum (audio) \

Medical Definition of pabulum

: food especially : a suspension or solution of nutrients in a state suitable for absorption

More from Merriam-Webster on pabulum

Nglish: Translation of pabulum for Spanish Speakers


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