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 nam·by-pam·bies 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.

Nearby words

  1. namangan,
  2. namaqualand,
  3. namas kar,
  4. namaste,
  5. namaycush,
  6. name,
  7. name after,
  8. name day,
  9. name is mud, one's,
  10. name names

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 formsnam·by-pam·bi·ness, nam·by-pam·by·ism, nounnam·by-pam·by·ish, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for namby-pamby

British Dictionary definitions for namby-pamby



sentimental or prim in a weak insipid waynamby-pamby manners
clinging, feeble, or spinelessa namby-pamby child

noun plural -bies

a person who is namby-pamby

Word Origin for namby-pamby

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

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