AskDefine | Define platitude

Dictionary Definition

platitude n : a trite or obvious remark [syn: cliche, banality, commonplace, bromide]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From , from platflat’.

Pronunciation

  • /ˈplætɪtjuːd/ or /ˈplætɪtuːd/

Noun

  1. An often-quoted saying that is supposed to be meaningful but has become unoriginal or hackneyed through overuse; a cliché.
  2. Unoriginality; triteness.
  3. A claim that is trivially true, to the point of being uninteresting.

Quotations

  • 1855–1857 — Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Book I, ch 34
    Then Lord Decimus, who was a wonder on his own Parliamentary pedestal, turned out to be the windiest creature here: proposing happiness to the bride and bridegroom in a series of platitudes that would have made the hair of any sincere disciple and believer stand on end;
  • 1918 — Algernon Blackwood, The Garden of Survival, ch XI
    Beauty, I suppose, opens the heart, extends the consciousness. It is a platitude, of course.
  • 1941 — Arthur K. Barnes, Trouble on Titan, ch II
    She listened patiently while Kurtt's oily, pompous platitudes rolled off his tongue. He called her "charming little lady" and "my dear" and made patronizing reference to her achievements "in spite of the handicap of her sex." Long after that, he concluded with the pious hope that the best man might win.
  • 1946 — Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, Ch. 15
    A supercilious smile or a glance of amused tolerance occasionally betrayed that the newcomers anticipated nothing more than a few pious platitudes.
  • 1988 — Ronald Reagan, Presidential Radio Address, 20 August
    It will take more than platitudes to convince the American people:

Translations

often-quoted saying
triteness

Dutch

Pronunciation

  • /plɑtiˈtydə/

Etymology

From , from platflat’.

Extensive Definition

A platitude is a trite, meaningless, bias or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original. The word derives from plat, the French word for "flat". Whether any given statement is considered to have meaning or not is highly subjective, so platitude is often — but not always — used as a pejorative term to describe seemingly profound statements that a certain person views as unoriginal or shallow.
The statements most commonly described as "platitudes" are short proverbs and aphorisms which are intended to motivate or encourage another person, but which are in reality overly-simplistic or cliché; for example, "You will succeed if you try hard enough", a statement which ignores the simple fact that it is entirely possible to fail in spite of one's best efforts. Some people dismiss such statements entirely, arguing that since the statement does not properly represent reality, any motivation or other emotion felt as a result of it must also be illusory; others argue that the omitted facts of reality are ones that are not useful to consider—knowing that you may fail for reasons beyond your control does not make it less likely—so such statements may be valuable as a rhetorical tool, even if not technically correct.
Another common platitude is the conversational lubricant "How are you?", usually a rhetorical question, and its attendant responses, such as "I'm fine; how are you?" This exchange, occurring most often between strangers or in professional settings, is so ubiquitous in English-speaking social discourse that it has almost completely discarded its literal meaning or intention.
platitude in German: Plattitüde

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abstraction, banality, bromide, chestnut, cliche, commonplace, commonplace expression, corn, familiar tune, general idea, generalization, generalized proposition, glittering generality, hackneyed expression, hackneyed saying, inanity, insipidity, lieu commun, locus communis, mawkishness, old joke, old saw, old song, old story, prosaicism, prosaism, prose, reiteration, retold story, rubber stamp, sentimentality, shibboleth, stereotyped saying, sweeping statement, tag, tired cliche, trite saying, triticism, truism, twice-told tale, vapidity
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