March 25, 2007

grandiloquence, stultiloquence

grandiloquence: [gran-DIL'-uh-kwence] n. Pompous speech or expression; bombast.

Grandiloquence refers to an attitude of haughtiness, especially in one's means of communication.
-Olsen, David. The Words You Should Know. Holbroke, MA: Bob Adams, 1991.

"I may not always employ the grandiloquence my opponent does, but I believe I have a commonsense solution to the problem he has just outlined."
--Olsen, David. The Words You Should Know. Holbroke, MA: Bob Adams, 1991.

1589, from L. grandiloquentia, from grandiloquus "using lofty speech," from grandis "big" + -loquus "speaking," from loqui "speak."
--Online Etymology Dictionary,

Imagine you go to a meeting, where you hear three speakers, each one creating, to your ear, a radically different effect.
  • The first speaker expresses thought with "fluency, force, and appropriateness, so as to appeal to the reason or move the feelings" [OED]: eloquent
  • The second talks in a style that is inflated, over-the-top, bombastic: grandiloquent.
  • And the third babbles on with silly, foolish verbiage.
What would be useful here is a word appended with the suffix -loqui that aptly describes the babbling, foolish style.

Here are two possibilities.
  • We have what might be termed a "not-word," ineloquent, which Webster 3 defines as "not eloquent : lacking in eloquence." The word is helpful, I suppose, in its "negative capability," but its insubstantiality ranks it among vague, lightweight descriptors.
  • Happily, we also have a far more substantive alternative, a word with some condescension in it, stultiloquent, which Webster 3 defines as "silly talk; babble." This word smirks and sneers, as did its Latin progenitor, stultiloquentia, whose root, stultus, means foolish. Stultiloquent a good fit for describing the "silly, foolish" expression of the third speaker mentioned above.

Thus we have a set of three descriptors to cover the full range of possibilities:

  • grandiloquence, with its errant pomposity and bombast;
  • eloquence, with its fluency, force, and appropriateness , that effectively appeal to reason and the emotions; and
  • stultiloquence, with the "fool power" (pun intended) of its robust root, stultus.
And, oh yes, I almost forgot there is also ineloquence (with its vague range of "negative capabilities").--B'n'J'n



  1. So "stutiloquence" is really a word in the english language?

  2. Sean,
    Yes, stultiloquence is a word. The most authoritative English dictionary in the world, The Oxford English Dictionary (the OED)defines the word as "Foolish or senseless talk, babble, bosh, twaddle." The OED also lists a few examples of the word in action, one of which comes from Algernon Charles Swinburne, a Victorian English poet, who in 1809 appeared in print with these words: "This sort of epithet..cannot fail to the stultiloquence of every society." The word is more likely to be seen in print than heard in conversation. Thanks for the question!

  3. Thanks for the reply. By the by, you mis spelled it the last time you mentioned it in your post.

  4. Ooops!

    Thanks, Sean.

    Correct spelling: stultiloquence

    Correction made.

    Bloggin' John