sen·​ten·​tious | \ sen-ˈten(t)-shəs How to pronounce sententious (audio) \

Definition of sententious

1a : given to or abounding in aphoristic expression
b : given to or abounding in excessive moralizing
2 : terse, aphoristic, or moralistic in expression : pithy, epigrammatic

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Other Words from sententious

sententiously adverb
sententiousness noun

Did You Know?

Nowadays, "sententious" is usually uncomplimentary, implying banality, oversimplification, and excessive moralizing. But that hasn't always been the case, nor is it universally so even now. The original Middle English sense of "sententious" was "full of meaning," a meaning adopted from Latin sententiosus (from sententia, meaning "sentence" or "maxim"). In Modern English, too, "sententious" has sometimes referred to what is full of significance and expressed tersely. Or sometimes "sententious" simply suggests an affinity for aphorisms, as when it refers to the likes of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard (of almanac fame), the homespun philosopher given to such statements as "early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Examples of sententious in a Sentence

a smug and sententious writer a sententious crank who has written countless letters to the editor about the decline in family values
Recent Examples on the Web This melodramatic narrative fits right into American indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt’s domain, but Francis Lee is a less sententious proselytizer for gay life. Armond White, National Review, "In Ammonite, Artistry Competes with a Demand for Allyship," 13 Nov. 2020 These are the sententious keynote presentations, used to dazzle investors or recruit employees, that try to get a startup to seem like a holy mission. Wired, "Tech Marketing Is Losing Its Cool," 22 Oct. 2019 What’s more, Charles’s sententious interpretation of noblesse oblige leaves him open to the charge of overstepping the constitutional boundaries of his position. Zoë Heller, The New Yorker, "Where Prince Charles Went Wrong," 31 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sententious.' 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 sententious

1509, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sententious

Middle English, full of meaning, from Latin sententiosus, from sententia sentence, maxim

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The first known use of sententious was in 1509

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Cite this Entry

“Sententious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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