- weakly sentimental; insipid
- without vigor
Origin: orig. satirical nickname of Ambrose Philips, 18th-c. Eng poet: inch(es) ridicule of his sentimental pastorals
- namby-pamby talk
- pl. namby-pambies a namby-pamby person
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Insipid and sentimental.
- Lacking vigor or decisiveness; spineless.
Origin: After Namby-Pamby, a satire on the poetry of Ambrose Philips (1674-1749) by Henry Carey (1687?-1743).Word History: We are being very literary when we call someone a namby-pamby, a word derived from the name of Ambrose Philips, a little-known 18th-century poet whose verse incurred the sharp ridicule of his contemporaries Alexander Pope and Henry Carey. Their ridicule, inspired by political differences and literary rivalry, had little to do with the quality of Philips's poetry. In poking fun at some children's verse written by Philips, Carey used the nickname Namby Pamby: “So the Nurses get by Heart Namby Pamby's Little Rhimes.” Pope then used the name in the 1733 edition of his satirical epic The Dunciad. The first part of Carey's coinage came from Amby, or Ambrose. Pamby repeated the sound and form but added the initial of Philips's name. Such a process of repetition is called reduplication. After being popularized by Pope, namby-pamby went on to be used generally for people or things that are insipid, sentimental, or weak.