pa·​lav·​er | \ pə-ˈla-vər How to pronounce palaver (audio) , -ˈlä- How to pronounce palaver (audio) \

Definition of palaver

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication a palaver between foreign ministers
b : conference, discussion a palaver between union leaders
2a : idle talk Cut the palaver and get down to business.
b : misleading or beguiling speech Don't get taken in by the candidate's palaver.


palavered; palavering\ pə-​ˈla-​və-​riŋ How to pronounce palavering (audio) , -​ˈlä-​ ; -​ˈlav-​riŋ , -​ˈläv-​ \

Definition of palaver (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to talk profusely or idly
2 : parley

transitive verb

: to use palaver to : cajole

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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," which in turn comes from the Greek parabolē, meaning "juxtaposition" or "comparison."

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Too often the book gets bogged down in the same kind of narcissistic palaver Daum derides. Rosa Brooks, Washington Post, "Meghan Daum’s merciless take on modern feminism, woke-ness and cancel culture," 24 Oct. 2019 In addition to funding the pen-pen drivers’ palaver hut — a sort-of community gathering area — Mr. Cooper also gave them 2000 Liberian dollars (the equivalent of around $20) last month, the young men said. Helene Cooper, New York Times, "Cash, T-Shirts and Gallons of Booze: How Liberian Candidates Woo Voters," 8 Oct. 2017 In 1962, French director and film critic François Truffaut requested palaver with the one and only Alfred Hitchcock. Matt Patches, Esquire, "Scorsese and Fincher Talking Hitchcock/Truffaut Will Change the Way You Watch Movies," 13 Sep. 2015 More partisan palaver, far from courageous, far from laudable. Logan Jenkins,, "A knock on wood for O'side mayor; a razz to Issa for timid response," 18 Aug. 2017 Mr. Egarr’s playing was as entertaining as his palaver, showing a cleanliness, refinement and style all too rare among harpsichordists, but never at the cost of bountiful fantasy. James R. Oestreich, New York Times, "Review: A Harpsichordist Who Keeps His Listeners Off Balance," 13 Jan. 2017 A Chicago Tribune column repeated the same palaver. The Hive, "No, Steve Bannon, the Media Won’t “Keep Its Mouth Shut”," 27 Jan. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb On the one hand, Hrabal’s palavering bears a direct relation to reality. Becca Rothfeld, The New Yorker, "The Violent Insights of Bohumil Hrabal," 19 Nov. 2019

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

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First Known Use of palaver


1735, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1713, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for palaver

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for palaver

Time Traveler

The first known use of palaver was in 1713

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Last Updated

5 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Palaver.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for palaver


How to pronounce palaver (audio) How to pronounce palaver (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of palaver

chiefly US : talk that is not important or meaningful
chiefly British : excitement and activity caused by something that is not important

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More from Merriam-Webster on palaver

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for palaver

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with palaver

Spanish Central: Translation of palaver

Nglish: Translation of palaver for Spanish Speakers

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