Bolls of cotton on a cotton plant (Gossypium) in Ware County, Georgia, USA. Bombast is an archaic name for cotton or cotton wool (sense 1).

From Old French bombace (cotton, cotton wadding), from Late Latin bombax (cotton), a variant of bombyx (silkworm), from Ancient Greek βόμβυξ (bómbux, silkworm), possibly related to Middle Persian pmbk' (cotton), from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to twist, wind”.[1]



bombast (countable and uncountable, plural bombasts)

  1. (archaic) Cotton, or cotton wool.
    • 1725, [Noël] Chomel, “SURBATING”, in R[ichard] Bradley, editor, Dictionaire Oeconomique: Or, The Family Dictionary. [], in Two Volumes, [], volume II (I–Z), London: Printed for D. Midwinter, [], OCLC 991191027, column 2:
      SURBATING; a Diſtemper in a Horſe, who is ſaid to be ſurbated, when the Sole is worn, bruiſed or ſpoiled by travelling without Shoes, or with ill ſhoeing: [] take Frankincenſe, and rolling it in a little fine Cotton Wool or Bombaſt, with a hot Iron melt it into the Foot betwixt the Shoe and the Toe, until the Orifice, where the Blood was taken away, is fill'd up; []
    • [[1874], S. W[arren], “The Wool-bearing Shrub”, in Cotton, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York, N.Y.: Pott, Young, & Co., OCLC 144674132, page 14:
      This strange wool-bearing plant is of the mallow tribe. [] Another name formerly given to the vegetable fleece was bombast. This word was in use before our ancestors were skilful enough to weave the cotton wool which was brought to them from the East in the merchant ships of Venice and Genoa. What they did not want for candle-wicks, they employed in stuffing and wadding their doublets and other articles of dress.]
  2. (archaic) Cotton, or any soft, fibrous material, used as stuffing for garments; stuffing, padding.
  3. (figuratively) High-sounding words; language above the dignity of the occasion; a pompous or ostentatious manner of writing or speaking.
    • 1760, John Dryden, “The Art of Poetry”, in Samuel Derrick, editor, The Miscellaneous Works of John Dryden, Esq; Containing All His Original Poems, Tales, and Translations. Now First Collected and Published together in Four Volumes, with Explanatory Notes and Observations. Also an Account of His Life and Writings, volume I, London: Printed for J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson in the Strand, OCLC 559918734, canto I, pages 320–321:
      And let burleſque in ballads be employ'd; / Yet noiſy bombaſt carefully avoid, / Nor think to raiſe, tho on Pharſalia's plain, "Millions of mourning mountains of the ſlain:" []
    • 1899 January 16, William G[raham] Sumner, The Conquest of the United States by Spain: A Lecture before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale University, January 16, 1899, Boston, Mass.: Dana Estes & Company, 212 Summer Street, OCLC 5711584, page 30:
      Upon a little serious examination, the off-hand disposal of an important question of policy, by the declaration that Americans can do anything, proves to be only a silly piece of bombast, and, upon a little reflection, we find that our hands are quite full at home of problems, by the solution of which the peace and happiness of the American people could be greatly increased.
    • 2017 March 1, Anthony Zurcher, “Trump addresses Congress: A kinder, gentler president”, in BBC News[1], archived from the original on 5 June 2017:
      At least for one night, Donald Trump put aside the bombast and bellicosity of a campaign that seemed to bleed into his presidency.


Derived termsEdit



bombast (third-person singular simple present bombasts, present participle bombasting, simple past and past participle bombasted)

  1. To swell or fill out; to inflate, to pad.
    • 1820, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Notes on [Richard] Baxter’s Life of Himself”, in Henry Nelson Coleridge, editor, The Literary Remains of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, volume IV, London: William Pickering, published 1839, OCLC 752429119, page 90:
      Their doctrine is to be seen in Jacob Behmen's books by him that hath nothing else to do, than to bestow a great deal of time to understand him that was not willing to be easily understood, and to know that his bombasted words do signify nothing more than before was easily known by common familiar terms.
  2. To use high-sounding words; to speak or write in a pompous or ostentatious manner.
    • 1968, Christianna Brand, What Dread Hand?: A Collection of Short Stories, London: Michael Joseph, OCLC 34886:
      [']The ugly truth is, Gerald,' she said viciously, 'that you're a phoney, a rotten, bombasting phoney, trying to cover up from all the world, [][']



bombast (comparative more bombast, superlative most bombast)

  1. Big without meaning, or high-sounding; bombastic, inflated; magniloquent.



  1. ^ bombast” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020, retrieved 24 July 2017.

Further readingEdit