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[nam-bee-pam-bee] /ˈnæm biˈpæm bi/
without firm methods or policy; weak or indecisive:
namby-pamby handling of juvenile offenders.
lacking in character, directness, or moral or emotional strength:
namby-pamby writing.
weakly sentimental, pretentious, or affected; insipid.
noun, plural namby-pambies for 4.
a namby-pamby person:
written by and for namby-pambies.
namby-pamby sentiment:
the harmless namby-pamby of a birthday card.
namby-pamby verse or prose.
Origin of namby-pamby
First recorded in 1726; rhyming compound based on the first syllable of Ambrose Philips; first used as a nickname for Philips in the title of a poem by Henry Carey (1687?-1743) ridiculing his verse
Related forms
namby-pambiness, namby-pambyism, noun
namby-pambyish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for namby-pamby
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Any workman in the school of namby-pamby could have kept their purity.

    My Contemporaries In Fiction David Christie Murray
  • She was very beautiful in her soft, foolish, namby-pamby, blue-eyed way.

    Pussy and Doggy Tales Edith Nesbit
  • He witnessed a performance—not too namby-pamby—of Punch and Judy.

    The Longest Journey E. M. Forster
  • Ruth Fielding was not namby-pamby, although she was far from quarrelsome.

    Ruth Fielding At College Alice B. Emerson
  • She was not at all weak or namby-pamby, but she was a universal peace-maker.

  • She ain't no namby-pamby, Susie-Sozzles sort of a gal—no, ma'am!

    The Mission of Janice Day Helen Beecher Long
  • Why did you make us walk in front, namby-pamby so, Papa dear?

    Dorothy's Travels Evelyn Raymond
  • The idea of a broken heart had always seemed to Winn namby-pamby.

    The Dark Tower Phyllis Bottome
  • I took it for granted Horace would admire some namby-pamby with a doll's face.

    Peggy Raymond's Way Harriet Lummis Smith
British Dictionary definitions for namby-pamby


sentimental or prim in a weak insipid way: namby-pamby manners
clinging, feeble, or spineless: a namby-pamby child
noun (pl) -bies
a person who is namby-pamby
Word Origin
C18: a nickname of Ambrose Phillips (died 1749), whose pastoral verse was ridiculed for being insipid
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for namby-pamby

"weakly sentimental, insipidly pretty," 1745, from satiric nickname of English poet Ambrose Philips (1674-1749) mocking his sentimental pastorals addressed to infant members of the nobility. Used first in 1726 in a farce credited to Carey. Related: Namby-pambical.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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