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W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield (1935 film)


A pejorative term for pompous and inflated speech or writing. Adjective: bombastic.

Unlike eloquence, a favorable term for forceful and persuasive discourse, bombast generally refers to "empty rhetoric" or "a windy grandeur of language" (Eric Partridge).

See also:


From Medieval Latin, "cotton padding"

Examples and Observations:

  • "My dear Copperfield, a man who labors under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassments, is, with the generality of people, at a disadvantage. That disadvantage is not diminished, when that pressure necessitates the drawing of stipendiary emoluments, before those emoluments are strictly due and payable. All I can say is, that my friend Heep has responded to appeals to which I need not more particularly refer, in a manner calculated to redound equally to the honor of his head and of his heart."
    (Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)

  • "Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
    Neptune's salt wash, and Tellus' orbed ground;
    And thirty dozen moons, with borrow'd sheen,
    About the world have times twelve thirties been;
    Since love our hearts, and Hymen did our hands,
    Unite communal in most sacred bands."
    (Player King in the play within a play in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, scene two)

  • "I have often noted that Americans, who generally conduct business in clear, incisive language devoid of all ornament and often vulgar in its extreme simplicity, are likely to go in for bombast when they attempt a poetic style. In speeches their pomposity is apparent from beginning to end and, seeing how lavish they are with images at every turn, one might think they never said anything simply."
    (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

  • "Honey, don't let the blonde hair fool you. Although bombastic forms of circumlocution should be generally avoided, one mustn't shy away from big words in the right context."
    (Aphrodite in "Punch Lines." Xena: Warrior Princess, 2000)

  • Platitudinous Ponderosity
    "In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating superficial sentimentalities and philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversation possess a clarified conciseness, compacted comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rhodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity and vaniloquent vapidity. Shun double entendres, prurient jocosity and pestiferous profanity, obscurant or apparent. In other words, talk plainly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely and don't use big words."
    (anonymous, The Basket: The Journal of the Basket Fraternity, July 1904)
Also Known As: grandiloquence

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