I'm sure I saw, recently, a word for this, but I can no longer remember, or find, it.

12 Answers 12


Possibly platitude:

A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant.

  • I think this is the perfect word for what you're looking for. A couple of other answers fit decently, but I think this one fits best by far. Upvoted appropriately. For examples, consider "Hard work always pays off", "Everything happens for a reason", "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", etc. – Doktor J Oct 24 '14 at 20:46
  • @DoktorJ: see also philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/149/… :) – Ben Hocking Oct 24 '14 at 22:10
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    I don't think this fits because a platitude is not meant to impress; it is merely meant to persuade. And triteness is in stark contrast to the profundity the sentence is intended to convey. – Matthew Hannigan Oct 25 '14 at 2:46
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    A platitude never "sounds profound or deep" - it literally means flatness. – ekhumoro Oct 25 '14 at 17:02
  • @MatthewHannigan and ekhumoro: there are two aspects to a platitude: the intended force and the actual content. the triteness and flatness applies to the actual content of the statement, which is in stark contrast to the profundity of its intended force. – Daniel Oct 26 '14 at 19:12

Perhaps grandiloquence

Pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner, especially in a way that is intended to impress: a grandiloquent celebration of Spanish glory

Similarly, bombast

High-sounding language with little meaning, used to impress people.

[both Oxford Dictionaries Online]

  • 2
    Naturally, pompous bombast is more grandiloquent than bombast alone. – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 24 '14 at 14:54
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    @WayfaringStranger How about pompous bombastic grandiloquent platitudes! – bib Oct 24 '14 at 14:57
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    Funny how words often have the qualities of their definition. – DoubleDouble Oct 24 '14 at 15:19
  • @DoubleDouble Best be curt! – bib Oct 24 '14 at 16:01

I good word for this might be meretricious, which means, courtesy of Oxford:

Apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity.

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but it describes pretty accurately.

  • Heads-up: your answer on Trotsky and racism question was migrated to Skeptics.SE. You may want to log in to that site, so you don't lose the reputation (you don't have an account there yet); and I hope you don't mind my edit adding Google ngram – DVK Jun 7 '15 at 20:45

If done intentionally then I might say sophistry, which the OED defines as:

a. Specious but fallacious reasoning; employment of arguments which are intentionally deceptive.

In offices it's also quite common to refer to what you describe using an impolite term for bull excrement.

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    Somewhat ironically, I think "specious" is actually more apt in this context than "sophistry". – ekhumoro Oct 25 '14 at 17:14

Were you perhaps thinking of deepity?

The term refers to a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another.

E.g.: "love is just a word"

On one level the statement is perfectly true (i.e., love is a word) but the deeper meaning of the phrase is false; love is many things — a feeling, an emotion, a condition — and not simply a word.

  • I think Daniel Dennett defined it as a statement made ambiguous by the inclusion or omission of quotation marks, such that one meaning is true but trivial, and the other is false but would be profound if it were true. – Beta Oct 24 '14 at 3:11

"BS," is the most popularly used term, and has attained some formal credentials (see Harry G. Frankfurt "On Bullshit," Princeton University Press).


It can be called a wind and you can use windy as an adjective.

wind - Empty, pompous, or boastful talk; meaningless rhetoric.

windy - Using or expressed in many words that sound impressive but mean little



The first word that came to my mind was "pretentious."

attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.


Surprised nobody has yet suggested (or even mentioned) truism.

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    I decided not to mention it because a truism isn't "in fact, meaningless or empty": a truism is just true. – ChrisW Oct 27 '14 at 11:12
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    A Truism is a Platitude and most Platitudes fall into the category of Truisms. Ex: If you are good you will do good. Thank you Tim this is a perfectly valid answer for the question. – user1634074 Mar 25 '18 at 11:07

A good adjective is


Something pompous is always very showy, but it is implied that its real value is less than at first glance. It can be used for a person's mannerisms, but also for sentences/phrasing and in many other cases.

  • And pomposity would be the noun (which is what OP asks for). – chiastic-security Oct 26 '14 at 15:10

I'd go with the word rhetoric.


I would suggest: Hollow

Without real significance or value:

Easier to use in a conversation then some of the more formal suggestions

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 24 '14 at 18:00

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