I've been studying English for a lot of time and if there's a word that I've always struggled to understand, this word is "glib". I've read multiple definitions of this word on various dictionaries, but I still can't fully get it.

CED has, for instance,

glib: speaking or spoken in a confident way, but without careful thought or honesty:

  • No one was convinced by his glib answers/explanations.

Collins Cobuild , on the other hand, gives:

glib: If you describe what someone says as glib, you disapprove of it because it implies that something is simple or easy, or that there are no problems involved, when this is not the case.

So, the word glib is usually defined as a way of talking that is smooth, ready, fluent, confident, smart, easy ... but that at the same time do not show much thought, it's shallow, trivializing, lacks understanding ... To me this is ever so confusing. It seems that these two things don't go well together. I wouldn't use it for example to define the way that a salesperson talks, since I wouldn't say that it lacks understanding and that it doesn't show much thoughts.

I mean, it seems to be referring to someone that is very well-spoken, has the gift of gab, silver-tongued ... so everything that I would associate to being clever, competent, knowledgeable ... but instead they are flippant, facile and maybe even dim.

Did I get it? Maybe I'm puzzled because in my native tongue, that's Italian, I can't find anything that is quite the same. I would be very grateful to whoever will provide me with some examples of ways of talking that you guys find to be glib.

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    glibness implies fluency and readiness. But it's nearly always used "contemptuously", implying lack of thought or of sincerity. Those same negative implications would apply if we refer to a salesman's smooth presentation or slick patter, though. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 17:10
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    Just check out some of my comments here -- they're mostly glib.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 17:12
  • @HotLicks: I suggest that actually you've posted more comments here that would be better described as sincere, thoughtful, insightful (the best I can come up with for "antonyms of the usual implications of glib"). Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 17:19
  • I would say that being glib includes the ability to skip over tricky areas of an argument: to make something seem plausible when it actually isn't. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 17:24
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    @Valerio: If you get a glib response to a complaint, you're being fobbed off. Don't get too hung up on whether the person fobbing you off is actually thinking very hard about how they react to you. What matters is they're treating you casually / carelessly, and not solving your problem. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


A good question. Showing dictionary definitions (which should accompany the question) would in itself not resolve this. Polysemy and perhaps hypernymy is going on.

Perhaps Merriam-Webster best illustrates the problem (I've re-ordered to help a logical approach) (and note that the speaker or what they say may be labelled glib):

Definition of glib

  • 1a: showing little forethought or preparation : OFFHAND glib answers

  • c: lacking depth and substance : SUPERFICIAL

  • b: marked by ease and informality : NONCHALANT glib solutions to knotty problems

So (a) not given what others might consider necessary forethought and/or (b) lacking depth and real substance (probably, if applicable, as a consequence of (a)) and/or marked by ease of speaking or decision-making (an obviously somewhat misleading skill, if senses (a) and (b) also apply).

These senses are conflated, with perhaps a hint at temporal re-ordering (fluency leading to sloppiness), in M-W's sense (2):

  • 2: marked by ease and fluency in speaking or writing often to the point of being insincere or deceitful a glib politician
  • I am terribly tempted to DV, as the Q shows no research, and the meanings are in General Reference... Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:07
  • @Cascabel It would be a little hard to DV (I presume downvote rather than God willing). The question is quite delightfully worded and reveals a deal of delicate thought going well beyond plodding dictionary work.
    – Anton
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:13
  • Woe unto you when all men think well of you. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:23
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    @Anton Unless you are not aware, Edwin has a long history of DVing answers to questions which 1) show no research 2) can be found in a General Reference...as he did to one of mine just yesterday. You yourself have been the target of such. Fair is fair.//...and now Edwin just edited/manipulated the Q to get around the "research required" criteria...I give up, this is not right. That said...I DID NOT DV the answer...I don't think it is right to punish the answerer for posting a good answer to a questionable question. That's my point. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:32
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    The answer (to the recent question) of yours I DVd was to be found in its entirety in a work considered a GR in the GR list in Meta. Here, I've sorted through and analysed various overlapping .../... conflicting definitions in various recommended reference works. I've also edited OP to clearly show the problem Valerio has identified (quite acceptable, in fact recommended for potentially decent questions) 'This is not right' is what is not right. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:37


Glib means 'slides off the tongue' (this popped into my head, from my uncanny intuitive knowledge of English, but is confirmed by the etymology of 'glib' which is Germanic, from 'slimy'.)

Glib, is where phrases slip from someone's mouth very easily, but are not backed up by substance, possibly by truth, or by effort.

A glib phrase slides instantly, but the sayer will squirm away before having to deliver the substance or promise of what was said.


The salesman's glib comment that 'a loud clanking sound was normal in 2008 models, and nothing to worry about', worried Jane - who could not imagine the salesman coming out on a cold and windy night, to pick her up in her broken vehicle.

'Let them eat cake!' declared Marie Antionette, queen of France, in response to her subjects rioting, due to lack of bread. Her glib comment, apparently revealing a complete lack of awareness of existence outside of her comfortable palace, led to the French Revolution, her demise, and the ultimate demise of the French royalty.

Etymology: A shortening of either English glibbery (“slippery”) or its source, Low German glibberig, glibberich (“slippery”) / Dutch glibberig (“slippery”).


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