pon·​der·​ous ˈpän-d(ə-)rəs How to pronounce ponderous (audio)
: of very great weight
: unwieldy or clumsy because of weight and size
: oppressively or unpleasantly dull : lifeless
ponderous prose
ponderously adverb
ponderousness noun

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The Serious History of Ponderous

Ponderous is ultimately from the Latin word for "weight," namely, "pondus" (which also gave us "ponder" and "preponderance" and is related to "pound"). We adopted "ponderous" with the literal sense "heavy" from Anglo-French ponderus in the 15th century, and early on we appended a figurative sense of "weighty," that is, "serious" or "important." But we stopped using the "serious" sense of "ponderous" around 200 years ago - perhaps because in the meantime we'd imposed on it a different figurative sense of "dull and lifeless," which we still use today.

Choose the Right Synonym for ponderous

heavy, weighty, ponderous, cumbrous, cumbersome mean having great weight.

heavy implies that something has greater density or thickness than the average of its kind or class.

a heavy child for his age

weighty suggests having actual and not just relative weight.

a load of weighty boxes

ponderous implies having great weight because of size and massiveness with resulting great inertia.

ponderous elephants in a circus parade

cumbrous and cumbersome imply heaviness and bulkiness that make for difficulty in grasping, moving, carrying, or manipulating.

wrestled with the cumbrous furniture
early cameras were cumbersome and inconvenient

Examples of ponderous in a Sentence

students struggling to stay awake during a ponderous lecture fell asleep during the ponderous speech
Recent Examples on the Web Prizing succinct song form and immediate melody, the Raspberries stood in contrast to the shaggy jams and ponderous prog that littered the rock landscape in the early 1970s. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2024 And that’s not even the weirdest thing about the ponderous pachyderm’s voiceover. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 20 Feb. 2024 The whole thing looks kind of squat and ponderous, whereas the original Enterprise was narrow and sleek. Kenna Hughes-Castleberry, Ars Technica, 23 Apr. 2023 On a frosty afternoon in late December, James Smith of Yard Act leans away from the table in ponderous thought. Jenessa Williams, Pitchfork, 14 Feb. 2024 The comments came during a lengthy and at times ponderous interview with American right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson, Putin’s first with a Western media figure since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022. Nathan Hodge, CNN, 8 Feb. 2024 After conducting an unprecedented audit of the city last year, the department called upon San Francisco to overhaul its ponderous permitting process under threat of litigation, funding cuts and the possible revocation of its local planning authority. Ben Christopher, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 At the Amtrak station, my headache worsened, and a ponderous fatigue set in. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 25 Aug. 2023 Here lies a ponderous abuse of consciousness: one of the most bizarre songs in hip-hop history. Jonathan Rowe, Spin, 22 Aug. 2023

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French ponderus, from Latin ponderosus, from ponder-, pondus weight

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ponderous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near ponderous

Cite this Entry

“Ponderous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ponderous. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


pon·​der·​ous ˈpän-d(ə-)rəs How to pronounce ponderous (audio)
: very heavy
: unpleasantly dull
fell asleep during the ponderous speech
ponderously adverb
ponderousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on ponderous

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