This is a single-word/idiom/phrase/expression-request, so basically I'll take anything that fits the bill.

I'm trying to translate the Chinese word 吹牛 - which dictionaries will tell you means to brag/to boast- but it actually also refers to things that are usually all untruths and lies.

I thought, originally, that one of the translated words would work: he's just bragging (i.e.: it's not, actually, true) - but the definitions provided by Google/Oxford only say:


  1. say something in a boastful manner

  2. a boastful statement

[v] boast:

  1. talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one's achievements, possessions, or abilities.
  2. (of a person, place, or thing) possess (a feature that is a source of pride).

synonyms: brag, crow, swagger, swank, gloat, show off, blow one's own trumpet, sing one's own praises, congratulate oneself, pat oneself on the back; exaggerate, overstate; preen oneself, give oneself airs; [informal] big, blow hard, lay it on thick, shoot one's mouth off; skite, big-note oneself

[n] boast:

  1. an act of talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction.

There's not realy anything talking about lies.

So, is there an apt idiom/word/phrase (a verb) that captures the idea of bragging and lying at the same time?

  • 1
    If you are looking to emphasize the lie you could always modify boast with something like - 'deceitful boasts' , or "boasting deceit", or "boasting deceptions" but they aren't idioms
    – Tom22
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 21:44
  • How about "campaign" as in, "the politician campaigned in ..."? (Kidding)
    – Matt M
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 17:10
  • 1
    Although it's not an exact match for what you want, I'm kind of fond of bloviate, because it sounds so much like what's going on: Talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 23:52
  • neither bragging nor boasting imply falsehood.
    – user175542
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 22:39
  • Another great word—and one that works both as a verb and as a noun—is blather. As a verb: "to talk foolishly at length—often used with on." As a noun: "voluble nonsensical or inconsequential talk or writing." Both definitions are from Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 6:14

13 Answers 13


A possible idiom is "trumping [it] up". From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of trump up

transitive verb

1: to concoct especially with intent to deceive : fabricate, invent

2 archaic: to cite as support for an action or claim

  • 14
    At first I thought this was a joke. Personification? Allusion? Or perhaps an example of anthropomorphism, but no, this is literally true and perfect!
    – Coomie
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 6:34
  • 15
    This particular phrase carries a heavy implied meaning of a fabricated accusation (ie: ...the defendant denied the allegations and dismissed the trumped-up charges as wild exaggerations).
    – J...
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 11:14
  • 10
    @J... I think we'll see it come to have a somewhat more broad connotation in the days to come.
    – gntskn
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:48
  • 4
    I'm used to hearing this in a legal environment like saying someone was arrested on "trump-ed up charges" Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 22:52
  • 3
    I get the humor, but this phrase isn't commonly used today in the sense the OP describes. At least not in American English. Maybe in 3 or 4 years.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 23:35

Full of hot air

A person who is full of hot air is a person who talks a lot but whose words carry no substance. This does not always refer to outright lies (It can, of course.), but if not, the claim in question is so unrelated, confused, exaggerated, or misleading that the person may as well be lying. This phrase is informal, dismissive, and somewhat insulting.

The phrase has variations on "hot air":

  • it
  • bull
  • Expletives referring to excrement
  • A combination of the last two: "bull [expletive]"
  • beans (This can also mean that something is lively, though. So only use if the context makes it clear you wouldn't be saying that.)

Naturally, the versions containing curse words express greater discontent with the person.

  • Don't forget "waffle"
    – Mou某
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 8:27
  • 1
    You can write BS or someone is full of bull shit within answers, if they answer the question. These won't be censored.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 11:17
  • 5
    "Full of beans" also has another meaning of "lively" or "in high spirits", so it may not be the best choice. (In fact, I had only ever heard it in this other sense until I looked it up just now.) Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 17:26
  • 1
    yeah, someone full of hot air is almost always full of pride, whether it's about themselves or just being a know it all. I feel that in the word.. just depends on how it needs to be used
    – Tom22
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 2:51
  • 1
    Someone full of hot air has an inflated view of himself.
    – Kys
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 18:15


freedictionary.com self-aggrandizing

Also found in: Thesaurus. self-ag·gran·dize·ment (sĕlf′ə-grăn′dĭz-mənt) n.

The act or practice of enhancing or exaggerating one's own importance, power, or reputation.

It is the exaggeration and enhancing that make the boast untrue

  • 3
    There is no connotation of falsehood here as requested by the OP.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:46
  • 1
    'enhancing' or 'exaggerating' is a degree of falsehood ... perhaps not enough for the OPs desire though. I'll put it this way... you'd call a aggrandizing person 'full of sh**' while a boastful person would just be "full of themselves" : ) . I'd have to understand the conotations of the chinese word as used in china to know if it gave any clue of what type of lie they made.
    – Tom22
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 22:17
  • This is particularly relevant as the director of the CIA said Donald Trump was self-aggrandising. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 22:02


Blustering has a very similar meaning to bragging, but it implies that the blusterer can't back it up. It's usually used in a context of threats, but works fine elsewhere.

You might also be looking for "vainglory," which is archaic, but has a very similar meaning to what you describe, or "boor," which is an annoying person, usually someone who makes such claims.

Finally, if you're looking for the most direct match, you're probably looking for "pathological liar," but that is a fairly unpleasant thing to call someone, and you may want to avoid it.

  • The Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary defines "bluster" as "talk intended to seem important or threatening but which is not taken seriously and has little effect". Which is the closest dictionary definition I can find to this meaning; I'd strongly associate bluster with idle boasts or empty threats but most dictionaries aren't so specific.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 25 at 13:38

Tell a fish story. That a boastful fib (lie), or at the very least a great exaggeration.

fish story and fish tale

Fig. a great big lie. (Like a fisherman who exaggerates the size of the fish that got away.)

  • That's just a fish story.

  • Don't try to fool me. He's a master at the fish tale. Maybe he should be a politician.

fish story

An improbable, boastful tale, as in He came up with some fish story about his winnings at the track. This expression alludes to the tendency of fishermen to exaggerate the size of their catch. [Early 1800s]

-- The Free Dictionary

(See also bluster, blowhard.)

  • 3
    Alternatively, telling tall tales.
    – alcedine
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:28

If you want a single word, I can only think of the crass bullshit. It's not a word you can say in mixed company. It's euphemism is simply "bull". As a noun and verb it very much implies complete lies, with connotations of intention to deceive.

Common phrases include:

That's a load of bullshit!

He's just giving me bullshit.

Quit bullshitting me! or Don't bullshit me!

I bullshit the whole way through that interview.

I smell bullshit.

Less commonly, you might also see horseshit or just plain shit.

Synonyms might include the following, but they all lack a certain zing you get from bullshit (possibly because it's a curse). I've put the ones I believe closer in meaning at the top.

  • hogwash
  • bunk
  • baloney
  • rubbish
  • crap
  • flim-flam
  • malarkey
  • phooey
  • poppycock

None of these, including bullshit, must connote boasting, but they certainly don't exclude it. They do all imply falsities, however, given the right context.

In a commerce context, there is puffery. It fits boasting, but not really "entire lies", and using it outside of someone trying to sell something is out of place. If the context fits, I'd use it.

I suspect that the common phrase "You gotta be shitting me" has it's roots in bullshit, however, that phrase is more commonly used to announce amazement at recently received news.

  • 1
    Beat me to it. The person who is a "lying bragdart" is also called a "bullshit artist" in my country of Australia :-D "What a load of bull dust" is also used as a euphemism for a load of baloney.
    – traktor
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:36
  • If they want a verb that is useful in polite company, "hogwashing" sounds the best to me from the list. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 12:42
  • Please note that the NeoAmerican Church made a very clear distinction between BullShit and HorseShit, Horseshit perhaps being more nearly what's in question here. I lost track of my copy of the catchism sometime before Woodstock, and can't (for some reason...) recall the details at the moment.
    – user597
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:33
  • 1
    Another idea for the list of common variants: urbandictionary.com/…
    – k1eran
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 19:51

Blowing Smoke


to Blow Smoke

Definitions from Idioms.TheFreeDictionary.com:

  1. To deceive others. "He wanted everyone to believe he had a lot of experience, but I think he was just blowing smoke." Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms Copyright ©2003.

  2. To say things that are not true in order to make yourself or something you are involved with seem better than it is. "The team put on an unbelievable performance. I'm not just blowing smoke - they were great." Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright ©2006.

  3. tv. To state something in a way that conceals the truth. (see also smoke and mirrors.) "She is a master at blowing smoke. She belongs in government."

  4. tv. To smoke marijuana. (Drugs.) "Frank sits around blowing smoke when he’s not selling." McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright ©2006

  5. To speak deceptively.

  6. To brag or exaggerate. American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright ©2016 ##Blowing Smoke / to Blow Smoke##
  • 2
    You probably just want to edit your changes into this answer rather than submit an entirely new answer. That way you can maintain your reputation already earned on this one.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 21:20
  • 1
    @Mitch With a new account also...why done with a new account? lol
    – Hank
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 21:39
  • 1
    @Jean (and Jean) if you have created two accounts, please see the Help about how to unite them.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 22:27

You could describe the character as a braggart (obviously a noun derived from the verb "brag.") https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/braggart

You could describe the behaviour as braggadocio - which looks like an Italian word, but is actually derived from the name of a character in a 16th-century English poem. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/braggadocio

A person who fantasizes about a life much more exciting and glamorous than their own could be described as like Walter Mitty or Mittyish. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/walter_mitty https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mittyish

  • The story was entitled "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" so while there was a lot of untruth to the stories Mitty told, he only told them to himself which I think is different than what is wanted here.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 21:00
  • +1 Braggadocio can actually be used to described the person and the thing being done, in fact.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 0:06

It sounds like they "talk the talk but don't walk the walk":

If you say that someone talks the talk but does not walk the walk, you mean that they do not act in a way that agrees with the things they say.

When it comes to recycling he talks the talk but he doesn't walk the walk.

  • 1
    This implies hypocrisy, not boasting. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 2:12

I think the phrase false pretence(s) fits the bill, unless I'm mistaken.

From Google:

Pretence: a claim to have a particular skill or quality.

  • pretence is faking so false pretence would be like saying "false faking": meaning telling the truth. -1
    – P. O.
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 18:41
  • If you do something under false pretenses, you do it when people do not know the truth about you and your intentions→HarperCollins Advanced English Dictionary
    – freeling10
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 18:53
  • 1
    @P.O. "False pretences" is a standard English expression, even though it does seem tautological. en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/false_pretences. It refers particularly to deceiving other people with criminal intent (to commit fraud. etc). The word "pretence" on its own doesn't necessarily imply any "bad" motive.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 22:37

If the lies take the form of stories about himself then you'd say he spins yarns, or if he just says he can do stuff that he can't do you'd call him a blowhard or perhaps even a windbag. If he's bragging about morality you'd call him holier-than-thou.

If it's more bragging about his (false) achievements or so you'd call that bluster.

You could probably get a good distance describing the man as a conman or con artist as long as you use it as an insult. Confidence tricks take lots of subtle forms and probably someone who literally brags about himself would not be a good confidence trickster, but if it's just an insult it probably communicates something similar.

In slang you might say "he talks a big game" as shorthand for "he talks a big game but he ain't all that." If he poses as tougher than he is by making threats that he'll never follow through on, you'd say "his bark is worse than his bite."


I would probably say that the speaker is "telling a tall tale".

Now, since 吹牛 literally means "to blow (up a) cow(skin raft)", some good alternatives might be:

  • blowing smoke
  • full of hot air
  • bullsh*tting

Since these preserve some imagery from the original Chinese.


Pretentious: adjective

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


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