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pa·​lav·​er pə-ˈla-vər How to pronounce palaver (audio) -ˈlä- How to pronounce palaver (audio)
: a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication
a palaver between foreign ministers
: conference, discussion
a palaver between union leaders
: idle talk
Cut the palaver and get down to business.
: misleading or beguiling speech
Don't get taken in by the candidate's palaver.


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palavered; palavering pə-ˈla-və-riŋ How to pronounce palaver (audio)

intransitive verb

: to talk profusely or idly
: parley

transitive verb

: to use palaver to : cajole

Did you know?

During the 18th century, Portuguese and English sailors often met during trading trips along the West African coast. This contact prompted the English to borrow the Portuguese palavra, which usually means "speech" or "word" but was used by Portuguese traders with the specific meaning "discussions with natives." The Portuguese word traces back to the Late Latin parabola, a noun meaning "speech" or "parable."

Examples of palaver in a Sentence

Noun Enough of this palaver. We have a lot to discuss. seemingly endless palaver between the negotiating parties Verb mothers palavering and drinking coffee while watching their children play I let the salesclerk at the electronics store palaver me into a service contract that I didn't need.
Recent Examples on the Web
And to listen to them is to be privy to some of the most easily ignored palaver the global economic elite has to offer. Noah Rothman, National Review, 18 Jan. 2024 His new design for Benin’s National Assembly, currently under construction in the capital Porto Novo, is a multi-columned structure that mimics the networked branches of a West African palaver tree, which traditionally served as a public meeting place. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, 20 May 2022 The palaver about Prime Minister Liz Truss’s failed tax-cut plan has obscured the way Mr. Bailey politicized the British central bank. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 18 Oct. 2022 The Brooks Brothers Riot, as the event would be called—on account of the shirts and blazers worn by many in the angry crowd—briefly became the subject of high-minded Washington palaver. Benjamin Wofford, Wired, 10 Mar. 2022 And up from under the palaver there is golden food. John Ashbery, The New York Review of Books, 13 May 2021
On the one hand, Hrabal’s palavering bears a direct relation to reality. Becca Rothfeld, The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'palaver.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Portuguese palavra word, speech, from Late Latin parabola parable, speech

First Known Use


1735, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1713, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of palaver was in 1713


Dictionary Entries Near palaver

Cite this Entry

“Palaver.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a long discussion usually between persons of different levels of culture
: talk entry 2 sense 1
especially : idle or flattering talk


2 of 2 verb
palavered; palavering
: to talk especially at length or idly

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