An informal term for a fashionable word or phrase (often a neologism) that is used more to impress than to inform.
The second edition of Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (2005) defines buzzword as "a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc."
Etymology:From the Middle English, of imitative origin ("buzz"), plus Old English, "word." The term was coined in the 1960s.
Examples and Observations:
- Executive: We at the network want a dog with attitude. He's edgy, he's in your face. You've heard the expression "let's get busy"? Well, this is a dog who gets biz-zay! Consistently and thoroughly.
Krusty the Clown: So he's proactive, huh?
Executive: Oh, God, yes. We're talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.
Meyers: Excuse me, but proactive and paradigm? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that. I'm fired, aren't I?
Executive: Oh, yes.
("The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show." The Simpsons, 1997)
- Leverage and Deleverage
"Leverage is a word heard frequently during the current financial crisis. It means borrowing heavily to maximize investment returns. The problem is that leverage was used to invest in mortgages that went bad. The new buzzword in the financial world is deleverage."
(Chris Arnold, "Financial Sectors' New Buzzword Is Deleverage," Morning Edition, NPR, Sep. 19, 2008)
- Buzzwords in Business Writing
"The Fortune 500 communications professionals surveyed for this stylebook are split down the middle when it comes to the use of buzzwords in business writing. Approximately half disdain buzzwords of any kind while the other half think some buzzwords are effective (for instance, bottom line, globalize, incentivize, leverage, paradigm shift, proactive, robust, synergy and value-added). As a general rule, use buzzwords judiciously, always keeping the readers in mind. If a buzzword is lively and capable of injecting some spunk into a dull sentence (and it does not alienate the readers), then use it."
(Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, The Business Style Handbook. McGraw-Hill, 2002)
"There's that word again: granularity.
"It's a mouthful of a term used by guys like Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey; and White House press secretary Tony Snow. . . .
"Lately, people have been invoking the word to mean specificity. Certain things, such as the administration's vision for the future of Iraq, lack granularity. Newlyweds' dreams, psychic-network predictions and late-night kitchen-table get-rich-quick schemes also suffer from granularity deprivation. . . .
"Granularity 'is a hot word,' says Mike Agnes, editor in chief of Webster's New World dictionaries, in Cleveland. 'It gives people a word they can use for a new way of looking at things--whether it be engineering, business, politics--and a new way of evaluating.'
"It means depth of detail, he says. 'If you were a photographer or an astronomer, speaking of an image, you would use the term resolution.'
"All of a sudden, Agnes says, granularity is a buzzword."
(Linton Weeks, "Granularity: The Nitty-Gritty About This Particulate of Speech." The Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2007)
- Buzzword Bingo in the U.K.
"Office jargon has become so prevalent in the UK, people are using phrases and happily admitting they have no idea what they are talking about. A new survey by Office Angles found 65% of those who attend daily meetings frequently encountered business jargon.
"It has even spurned a new boardroom pastime--buzzword bingo, in which employees gleefully tick off corporate-speak used by their bosses."
("Buzzword Bingo: Coining the Lingo," BBC News, Feb. 15, 2000)
- The Coming and Going of Buzzwords
"Every decade seems to have its particular buzz words that roar through the culture and become mantras in media, business and political lexicons, then disappear after few years like Boy George. Topping the business charts in the 1970 was the very buzzy 'Management by Objective'--MBO. CEOs and Governors twitched with excitement over it. And remember 'synergism,' in the 1980s? It sounded vaguely sexual. America was going through one of its frequent merger cycles and 'synergy' was the yellow brick road. That is, until 'vertical integration' came along."
(Tom Alderman, "The Best Buzzwords of the Year," The Huffington Post, Sep. 25, 2008)