What is a word for someone or something that superficially seems to have a lot of substance/character but is actually shallow/empty? I can't help but think I've heard a word like this before. "Glib" comes close but seems to speak more to words rather than character.

  • "Empty suit" is used in some contexts.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 23:27
  • braggadocio or maybe braggart
    – TsSkTo
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


A colorful phrase for such a person, in U.S. English, is "all hat and no cattle." The literal reference is someone who dresses and maybe acts like a cowboy (with a fancy ten-gallon hat, for example), but knows nothing about ranching, and is used more generally to describe someone who is all show and no substance.

If you're looking for a single word, here are a couple of options:

  • pretentious. Claiming that or behaving as if one is important or deserving of merit when such is not the case.
  • poseur (or poser). One who affects a particular attribute, attitude, or identity to impress or influence others.

There's also phony in the sense of: 5. an insincere or affected person.

You might also use a number of the synonyms listed under 2. One who fakes: in the thesaurus section of the same definition.


Perhaps a proverb rather than a word will do.

empty vessels make most noise (or sound)

Those with least wisdom or knowledge are always the most talkative. — ODD

Essentially this proverb is the antoymn of Still waters run deep.

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