46

I'm having difficulty coming up with a valid antonym for gravitas.

Online searches return results like superficiality, cheerfulness, frivolity, facetiousness etc. which don't work for me. They seem to be opposites of gravitas as it is understood by the person who has it.

As in, "We need to undertake this project with gravitas", "he carried himself with gravitas".

This is taken to mean seriousness.

There's another sense of the word, as the quality of a person having gravitas. In this case, the things they say and do are given significance because of gravitas.

What if what someone has to say is automatically disregarded because of... the opposite of gravitas.

What would that word be?

  • 74
    I wish the answer was "anti-gravitas"... – Pam Mar 25 at 14:29
  • 1
    It might be helpful to provide example sentences where your particular sense is used. As I read your question, the example sentences you show are of a sense you don't want. -- I'm also unclear on the distinction in senses you seem to be making. You might want to clarify that, and example sentences of each (clearly labeled) can help. – R.M. Mar 25 at 15:10
  • 5
    @Lambie I'd say 'gravitas' is a fairly old-fashioned word. – AJFaraday Mar 25 at 16:00
  • 4
    "flibbertigibbetosity" – Greg Lee Mar 25 at 16:33
  • 3
    Maybe it’s flibbertigibbetas – Jim Mar 25 at 18:36

19 Answers 19

138

You could try levity:

Levity may refer to

  • a sense of amusement, the opposite of gravitas
  • 82
    Weird quirk: Latin does have the word levitas, which would be a direct contrast to gravitas. However, because the Latin form is part of what gives gravitas its gravitas, it would feel odd or quirky to use levitas in the same way. Hence levity (comp. gravity) is a great choice. – TaliesinMerlin Mar 25 at 13:46
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    @TaliesinMerlin That's a beautiful irony. I wonder whether there's a word for this situation! – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 25 at 17:35
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    @TaliesinMerlin If "levity" has too much gravitas, one could substitute "levi-OHHHH-sa" and wave a little stick. – David Richerby Mar 25 at 17:58
  • What is the word for someone who with levity and frivolity is deadly serious? – Sentinel Mar 26 at 1:06
  • 2
    The oddity and quirkiness of levitas makes it kinda perfect for the OP's purposes. – J. C. Salomon Mar 26 at 23:08
41

There is nothing wrong with the word Frivolity as you pointed out. It actually means- lack of seriousness. The word Frivolity, from Latin frivolus. It is a synonym to levity and it is directly opposite to the word serious.

Frivolity (noun): the quality or state of being frivolous.

Merriam-Webster defines frivolous (adj.) as,

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frivolous

2.a: lacking in seriousness

His frequent frivolous behavior in the meeting is a big concern.

  • 1
    Frivolity doesn't usually refer to the way someone carries themself, which is a typical use of gravitas. – sondra.kinsey Mar 25 at 18:13
  • @sondra.kinsey unfortunately, we can't say frivolitas or levitas. – Ubi hatt Mar 26 at 1:38
12

Flippancy, perhaps?

Flippant - Displaying unbecoming levity in the consideration of serious subjects or in behaviour to persons entitled to respect. (OED)

10

I generally agree that levity is a pretty direct antonym of gravitas, but "he carried himself with levity" doesn't sound right. So I'll suggest

insouciance n. Blithe lack of concern; nonchalance.

  • I guess I think of "insouciance" as a positive - an attractive characteristic, rather than in inappropriate light-mindedness. – user888379 Mar 25 at 16:28
  • Lack of gravitas can be positive. It depends on context. – nigel222 Mar 28 at 13:00
4

What about apathy?

  1. absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.

  2. lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.

  • 2
    The Stoic tradition believed strongly in both gravitas and apatheia. While modern apathy has different connotations, I still see gravitas as having a cool relaxed indifference that bears some resemblence to apathy. – sondra.kinsey Mar 25 at 18:15
3

Another option: nonchalance

the state or quality of being nonchalant; cool indifference or lack of concern; casualness.

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nonchalance

  • Nonchalance is still an attitude, as opposed to a quality. I couldn't imagine saying "Nobody will listen to me, I've just got too much nonchalance". – AJFaraday Mar 25 at 14:47
  • 2
    Probably not, but I could imagine it as an adjective “Why won’t anyone take me seriously?” “Well, you are kind of nonchalant when you present.” – Damila Mar 25 at 15:22
3

Carelessness [kair-lis] adjective

1) not paying enough attention to what one does

2) not exact, accurate, or thorough: careless work.

2) done or said heedlessly or negligently; unconsidered:

4) not caring or troubling; having no care or concern; unconcerned (usually followed by of, about, or in)

5) possessed or caused without effort or art; unstudied

6) Archaic . free from anxiety.

Source: Dictionary.com

3

Triviality

The ODO definition of 'triviality' states:

Lack of seriousness or importance; insignificance.

Here are ODO examples of usage:

‘the mediocrity and triviality of current popular culture’

‘the relentlessness of his triviality is grating’

So in your examples, we might have:

We need to undertake this project without triviality,

He carried himself in a trivial fashion.

What you are getting at is, I think, a kind of weightlessness, and 'ungroundedness' in a person or project, which leads to a desire to avoid or disregard them.

2

How about vacuity, silliness, or buffoonery?

  • foolishness, senselessness – Daniel Mar 26 at 14:14
  • insincerity, flakiness, fishiness – Daniel Mar 26 at 14:18
  • 1
    You should support your answer by citing, e.g., dictionary definitions for your suggestions. – V2Blast Mar 26 at 20:00
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    I think 'vacuity' might be the best answer of all. But it needs somebody to propose it with a dictionary definition, usage example etc. – EleventhDoctor Mar 27 at 9:08
2

This is taken to mean seriousness.

[...]

There's another sense of the word, as the quality of a person having gravitas. In this case, the things they say and do are given significance because of gravitas.

The specific use of "gravitas", this sense of possessing gravitas lending weight or importance to a person leads me to believe you may be extending the meaning of the phrase "air of gravitas" to "gravitas" itself. I therefore believe you are looking for

insignificance, the quality or state of being insignificant, which is itself defined as

not significant: such as

a : lacking meaning or import

b : small in size, quantity, or number

c : not worth considering : unimportant

d : lacking weight, position, or influence : contemptible

(Merriam-Webster)

To put it in context from your question:

What if what someone has to say is automatically disregarded because

of their insignificance?

2

I'd like to suggest inane, inanity.

Google tells me about inane: mid 16th century: from Latin inanis ‘empty, vain’.

Inanity (From merriam-webster) the quality or state of being inane: such as a : lack of substance : emptiness b : vapid, pointless, or fatuous character : shallowness

2

Lightweight.

From the Oxford Am.Dictionary:

2 • informal a person of little importance or influence, especially in a particular sphere: he was regarded as a political lightweight.

1

Consider: mercuriality.

mercuriality

  1. the state or quality of having a lively, fickle, volatile, or erratic attitude or character.
  2. an instance of such behavior. — mercurial, adj.

The Free Dictionary.

  • 2
    I don't think that fits. While a mercurial temperament is lacking in gravitas, it isn't a polar opposite -- "gravitas" doesn't imply a decisive, slow-moving, or predictable nature, nor does "mercurial" imply frivolity. – duskwuff Mar 25 at 19:34
1

Perhaps 'foppery'? aka: foolish character or action

"The entire exercise was laden with foppery, and as a result lacked any sense of gravitas."

Depending on the actual sentence structure, it could be 'foppish'.

"Nobody will listen to me, I'm far too foppish."

  • That's over the moon here,isn't it? :) – Lambie Mar 25 at 16:00
  • Seriously check this word in urbandictionary.com before you use it about a co-worker! – CCTO Mar 25 at 16:47
  • @CCTO I couldn't find an entry for 'foppery' in urban dictionary, and similar entries for words starting with 'fop' don't seem widely used. 'foppish' does have an entry meaning basically 'effeminate' – Daniel Mar 26 at 14:22
  • @Daniel: you are right, I was sloppy. It's the form "foppish" that's in urbandictionary, confirming my initial reaction that "foppery" would, by many speakers, be taken to imply effeminacy. The actual form "foppery" may be less common, in any usage, but I'd be prepared for many people to apply the same idea. – CCTO Mar 28 at 17:19
1

As far as attractive force is concerned, the obvious opposite is

repulsiveness

An easier word that better fits the theme of levity (proposed above) would be

ease

The opposite of a grave situation that may be potentially underestimated with regards to its gravitas, would be an easy situation, after all.

1

In the case of gravitas in your example, the gravitas is a externally perceived quality of the person in question.

Insignificance would be the opposite of the meaning of gravitas in your example. The problem with this, at least for me:

  1. What she says carries a lot of weight, because of her gravitas.
  2. What she says is automatically disregarded, because of her insignificance.

In 1., the attribution is implicitly a perception, while in 2. i'd understand it as a statement of fact, i.e the person is perceived to be X versus the person is X

So i would add another word (slightly violating your single-word tag);

"What she says is automatically disregarded, because of her perceived insignificance."

or

"What she says is automatically disregarded, because she is perceived as insignificant."

0

I don't think this can be answered with only one word, honestly.

The media uses gravitas to describe politicians who have a lot of respect or political sway with other politicians even. I wouldn't use any of the words listed above to describe a human being who had the opposite of gravitas. I would call him/her feckless, when the object is a human.

If the object is an object, I agree with frivolous or the other antonyms listed here.

-2

I would suggest Trumpishness. Maybe not common use yet, but it will be. Someone recently said "out-Nixoned Nixon". Everybody knew what that meant.

  • You should support your answer by citing, e.g., a dictionary definition for your suggestion. – V2Blast Mar 26 at 20:00
  • @V2Blast Firstly, please don't go posting comments beginning "You should ...". Secondly, some words are buildable from freely applicable morphemes and these words more often than not don't appear in dictionaries. – Araucaria Mar 26 at 20:24
  • @Araucaria: I could just as easily make up a new word and suggest that instead, but it wouldn't be a good answer if it was entirely unsupported as this answer is. – V2Blast Mar 26 at 20:25
  • This is a site for linguists and therefore the valid and creative use of the freely productive morpheme will be both appreciated and readily understood and therefore this needs no other suppport than its own existence. – Araucaria Mar 26 at 20:28
-5

A favorite phrase I have seen used to describe people with the opposite of gravitas is to call them, basically a non-entity.

I think the description best suited to your needs is Mundane meaning supremely ordinary.

  • You should support your answer by citing, e.g., dictionary definitions for your suggestions. – V2Blast Mar 26 at 20:01

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