ver·​biage | \ ˈvər-bē-ij How to pronounce verbiage (audio) also -bij How to pronounce verbiage (audio) \

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 Disclaimers identifying who paid for the text messages are not required because there is too little space within the standard 160-character limit to fit that extra verbiage. Author: Linda Robertson Miami Herald, Anchorage Daily News, "That annoying barrage of political texts? It’s only going to get worse," 25 Oct. 2020 What the virtual attendees didn’t expect was that a profanity filter aimed at keeping attendees’ verbiage in good taste had run amok. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Overactive Profanity Filter Bleeps ‘Bone’ At Paleontology Conference," 19 Oct. 2020 At the quintile level, Penn Wharton changed its verbiage for describing average tax hikes between March and September. Joseph W. Sullivan, National Review, "The Median Household Will Pay More under Biden-Harris Tax Plan," 13 Oct. 2020 However, board member and secretary Robert Scarfo made a point to discuss the verbiage of the item to the during the meeting on Sept. 8. Savannah Mehrtens, Houston Chronicle, "Humble ISD sets property taxes to lowest rate since 2007," 22 Sep. 2020 Board members expressed concern regarding new verbiage the district had to use in its motion to pass the tax rate. Chevall Pryce, Houston Chronicle, "Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees approve lower tax rate for 2020-2021," 16 Sep. 2020 There was minimal contact between the quarterback and McCarthy as a hybrid system and verbiage were installed. David Moore, Dallas News, "Cowboys preview: Under new coach Mike McCarthy, Dallas embarks on a season unlike any other," 6 Sep. 2020 The reader is left to fumble through a thicket of meaningless verbiage that pads out the narrative. Patrick Mulholland, National Review, "The Making of the Celebrity Monarchy," 29 Aug. 2020 Now while the offensive verbiage remains the same, some new wrinkles will be sprinkled into this Cowboys’ offense with McCarthy. Calvin Watkins, Dallas News, "5 things to know about Cowboys training camp, including the best position battles, who’s out and more," 14 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for verbiage

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The first known use of verbiage was circa 1721

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Last Updated

30 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Verbiage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for verbiage


How to pronounce verbiage (audio) How to pronounce verbiage (audio)

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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