pa·​lav·​er | \pə-ˈla-vər, -ˈlä- \

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, -​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


Enough of this palaver. We have a lot to discuss. seemingly endless palaver between the negotiating parties


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

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

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


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


see palaver entry 1

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Time Traveler for palaver

The first known use of palaver was in 1713

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More Definitions for palaver



English Language Learners Definition of palaver

: talk that is not important or meaningful

: excitement and activity caused by something that is not important

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More from Merriam-Webster on palaver

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with palaver

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for palaver

Spanish Central: Translation of palaver

Nglish: Translation of palaver for Spanish Speakers

Comments on palaver

What made you want to look up palaver? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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