[ pol-ee-an-uh ]
/ ˌpɒl iˈæn ə /
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an excessively or blindly optimistic person.
(often lowercase)Also Pol·ly·an·na·ish. unreasonably or illogically optimistic: some pollyanna notions about world peace.
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Origin of Pollyanna

First recorded in 1910–15; from the name of the child heroine in the novel Pollyanna (1913), written by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868–1920), American writer


Pol·ly·an·na·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


Why is Pollyannaish trending?

On Sunday, August 2, 2020, searches for Pollyannaish increased 3263% compared to the previous week after Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force member, used the word while defending herself from criticism by the U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

More context on Pollyannaish

Pollyannaish, often written in lowercase as pollyannaish, means “unrealistically optimistic.” If someone is acting Pollyannaish, then they are judged as showing an optimism that is extremely naive and unthinking.

Pollyannaish is based on Pollyanna, a term for an excessively optimistic person. How did the female given name Pollyanna become used in this way? Pollyanna comes from the titular character of the 1913 children’s book Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. In the book, Pollyanna is extraordinarily optimistic and positive about life, regardless of what befalls her.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been a staunch critic of the Trump administration’s approach to the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an August 2 interview with ABC, Pelosi stated she lacked confidence in Dr. Deborah Birx, accusing her of spreading disinformation about the coronavirus and taking unduly confident positions about the pandemic; Pelosi had issued even harsher criticism of Birx the previous week. In response, Birx said she always relies on scientific data, and that she had never taken a Pollyannaish view or been called Pollyannaish. Pelosi herself did not use the term Pollyannaish in her criticism.

Are you confused about the difference disinformation and misinformation? We’ve got you covered in our article, “’Misinformation’ vs. ‘Disinformation’: Get Informed On The Difference.”

British Dictionary definitions for Pollyanna

/ (ˌpɒlɪˈænə) /

a person who is constantly or excessively optimistic

Derived forms of Pollyanna

Pollyannaish, adjective

Word Origin for Pollyanna

C20: after the chief character in Pollyanna (1913), a novel by Eleanor Porter (1868–1920), US writer
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

Cultural definitions for Pollyanna


(1913) A children's book by the American author Eleanor H. Porter. The title character is an orphan girl who, despite the difficulties of her life, is always extremely cheerful.

notes for Pollyanna

A “Pollyanna” remains excessively sweet-tempered and optimistic even in adversity.
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.