Bloviation Definition and Examples

Warren G Harding
U.S. President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), known as the Great Bloviator. Harris & Ewing/Wikimedia Commons

Bloviation is speech or writing that is wordy, pompous, and generally empty of meaning: verbosity. Verb: bloviate. A person who bloviates is a bloviator.

Examples of Bloviation

  • "When a man talks or writes 'an infinite deal of nothing' upon any subject, they say he 'bloviates.'"
    ("An Answer to Mr. Rockwell." The Wool Grower and Magazine of Agriculture and Horticulture, November 1850)
  • "Francis Russell's biography of President Warren Harding, The Shadow of Burning Grove, says that Harding and his friends back in Marion, Ohio, used to spend a lot of time sitting around bloviating. There was--indeed, there is--such a word as bloviate, but you have to do a lot of searching to find it. The 1913 Funk & Wagnalls Unabridged lists bloviation and defines it as 'loud, defiant, boastful talk.' The current Merriam-Webster Third International defines bloviate as 'to orate verbosely and windily.' It's a dandy word and one that should not be allowed to wither on the vine, not so long as long-winded political orators exist--and that they still do.
    "It's a particularly appropriate word for Warren Gamaliel Harding, for he was the very epitome of that characteristically American phenomenon, the politician who makes a handsome, impressive appearance and talks impressively at great length, without ever managing to say anything of real substance."
    (William Morris and Mary Morris, Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd ed. HarperCollins, 1988)
  • "[Warren G.] Harding's most famous example of bloviation is a 550-word campaign speech of 1920 titled 'Readjustment,' about adjusting to peace after Word War I. . . . It includes this famous height of bloviation, with seven pairs of alliterating opposites"
    America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality. . . .
    Harding's sentence knocks around like a game of ping-pong. A listener can enjoy the game but will hardly grasp the meaning. Some of the pairs makes sense, but 'not agitation, but adjustment' and 'not surgery, but serenity'? Sense has been sacrificed for alliteration."
    (Allan A. Metcalf, Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush. Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
  • "Those elements once thought to be disqualifying liabilities--his vulpine countenance, that Klaxon voice, his penchant for melodramatic bloviation--catapulted [American sports journalist Howard Cosell] from the simple stardom of a prime-time network television show into the rare air of a show-business celebrity."
    (Dave Kindred, Sound and Fury: Two Powerful Lives, One Fateful Friendship. Free Press, 2006)
  • "[W]e view the country lawyer through twin lenses: his handsome horse and buggy, his fine clothes and shiny shoes, through the credulous eyes of ten-year-old Clarence [Darrow]; his bluster and rant, his pettifoggery and bloviation through the jaded scrutiny of the forty-eight-year-old Darrow who, by 1904, had soured on the rhetoric, the ethics, the very rationale of his profession."
    (J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America. Touchstone, 1998)
  • "After a brief debate the House adopted such a declaration by a vote of 173-14. The Senate, as was its wont, took somewhat more time for bloviation, and then concurred with the House by an even more lopsided vote of 40-2."
    (Steven E. Woodworth, Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War. Vintage Books, 2010)

Pronunciation: blow-vee-A-shun

Back-formation from the mock-Latinate verb bloviate, from "blow"

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Bloviation Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Bloviation Definition and Examples. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Bloviation Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).