ver·​biage | \ˈvər-bē-ij also -bij \

Definition of verbiage 

1 : a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content such a tangled maze of evasive verbiage as a typical party platform— Marcia Davenport

2 : manner of expressing oneself in words : diction sportswriters guarded their verbiage so jealously— R. A. Sokolov

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Did You Know?

Verbiage descends from Middle French verbier ("to chatter"), itself an offspring of "werbler," an Old French word meaning "to trill." The usual sense of the word implies an overabundance of possibly unnecessary words. It is similar to "wordiness," except that it stresses the superfluous words themselves more than the quality that produces them. In other words, a writer with a fondness for "verbiage" might be accused of "wordiness." Some people think the phrase "excess verbiage" is redundant, but that's not necessarily true. In the early 19th century, "verbiage" developed a second sense meaning, simply, "wording," with no suggestion of excess. This second definition has sometimes been treated as an error by people who insist that "verbiage" must always imply excessiveness, but that sense is well-established and can be considered standard.

Examples of verbiage in a Sentence

NOT the least of the many trials inflicted upon the Boston Red Sox has been a torrent of verbiage. Surely no team in recent memory has been so scrutinized, complained about and then elegized. — Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review, 13 Aug. 2006 Fashionable courtiers in the Renaissance adopted the doublet.  … The cotton padding of this jacket, called bombast (the source of the term for inflated verbiage), was gradually increased to give courtiers the pumped-up look. — John Tierney, New York Times, 21 Jan. 1999 To find the height of arcane verbiage look no farther than Rule 10 of the rules governing Major League Baseball, in what is known as the Blue Book. The corresponding entry explains the waivers system—the procedures that pertain to certain player transactions—in a way that makes the Magna Carta look like part of the Jackie Collins oeuvre. — Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 25 Aug. 1997 Sure, some contract verbiage is so objectionable, it can be considered against public policy; in fact, the most arduous hold-harmless clauses would probably be thrown out of court. — Leon H. Ciesla, Plane & Pilot, March 1995 Is word processing truly the wonder it seems or will it turn out to be but a mere exercise in verbose verbiage? — Erik Sandberg-Diment, New York Times, 26 June 1984 The editor removed some of the excess verbiage from the article. teachers loathe the verbiage that students resort to in order to pad a paper
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Recent Examples on the Web

Chamoiseau’s descriptions of the forest — beautifully translated from French and Creole by Linda Coverdale — are exhilarating, but the old man never quite comes into focus against the background of foliage and verbiage. New York Times, "Fleeing a Caribbean Plantation Into a Mythic Wilderness," 27 June 2018 Their ceremonies were vastly different, while the verbiage of their vows stayed almost identical. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan and Harry's First Photos as Newlyweds Compared to Kate and William's," 20 May 2018 The ensuing three messages, each of which used similar verbiage to the May 5 message, came from the same number. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "He got busted for bomb threats to a mosque, prosecutors say, partially by caller ID | Miami Herald," 16 May 2018 The tasting was blind, which spared us from the daunting label verbiage. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "2016 Dry German Rieslings: Graceful, Resonant, Delicious," 3 May 2018 That change to the traditional verbiage has evolved over the course of many decades, building on a service that has changed in many other ways too. Lily Rothman, Time, "Meghan Markle Didn't Promise to 'Obey' Prince Harry in Her Vows. Her Decision Is Actually Part of a Long Tradition," 19 May 2018 Just about the verbiage, transferring his brain from the huddle to the line of scrimmage is different than when the coach is calling it from the sidelines, everybody sees what the call is. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "A former FIU quarterback nudges a former Canes quarterback off an NFL roster | Miami Herald," 13 May 2018 Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan came after Breyer, with just over and just under a sixth of the court's total arguments verbiage, respectively. Fox News, "SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Mystery, a faux pas, wordy Breyer," 11 May 2018 And per the verbiage on his own LinkedIn, he was allegedly described as having been somewhat involved with the financial part of FanCon. Clarkisha Kent, The Root, "It Be Your Own People: On Universal FanCon and the Perversion of Community," 24 Apr. 2018

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

circa 1721, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for verbiage

borrowed from French, from verbier "to trill, warble" (going back to Middle French verboier "to twitter," altered from Middle French dialect (Picard) verbloier, guerbloier, derivative of werbler "to sing expressively, trill") + -age -age — more at warble entry 1

Note: The meaning of French verbiage clearly shows the associative influence of verbe "word, verb" and its derivatives.

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The first known use of verbiage was circa 1721

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English Language Learners Definition of verbiage

: speech or writing that contains too many words or that uses words that are more difficult than necessary

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by force of circumstances

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