• synonyms


  1. Irving,1865–1933, U.S. educator and critic.
  2. Milton Byron,1916–2011, U.S. composer.
  3. (italics) a novel (1922) by Sinclair Lewis.
  4. (often lowercase) a self-satisfied person who conforms readily to conventional, middle-class ideas and ideals, especially of business and material success; Philistine: from the main character in the novel by Sinclair Lewis.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for irving babbitt


  1. (tr) to line (a bearing) or face (a surface) with Babbitt metal or a similar soft alloy
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  1. US derogatory a narrow-minded and complacent member of the middle class
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Derived FormsBabbittry, noun

Word Origin for Babbitt

C20: after George Babbitt, central character in the novel Babbitt (1922) by Sinclair Lewis
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

Word Origin and History for irving babbitt



"conventional, complacent, materialistic American businessman," 1923, from George Babbitt, title character of Sinclair Lewis' novel (1922).

His name was George F. Babbitt. He was forty-six years old now, in April 1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the selling of houses for more money than people could afford to pay. [Sinclair Lewis, "Babbitt," 1922]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

irving babbitt in Culture


(1922) A novel by Sinclair Lewis. The title character, an American real estate agent in a small city, is portrayed as a crass, loud, overoptimistic boor who thinks only about money and speaks in clichés, such as “You've gotta have pep, by golly!”

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By extension, a “Babbitt” is a narrow-minded, materialistic businessman.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.