BANAL [buh-NAL] : insignificant, trite


Banal is one of those words that sounds “snooty.”   You pronounce it by putting the emphasis on the second syllable.   It would seem just the opposite, that you would emphasize the first syllable.   Consequently, when you say it properly, it sounds like an intellectual, erudite term.

It’s meaning is clear.  It refers to anything that is commonplace, ordinary.   It comes from the French language, where it has something to do with the meaning of “ban.”   I’m not clear about that connection, however.

I love the list of synonyms the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary offers:

wishy–washy, flat, insipid, milk-and-water, namby-pamby, watery

How much clearer could you get?   The ordinary use of the word is to talk about something being boring or insignificant.    One might use the word in a review of a concert which is lack-luster.   “The Beethoven segment of the concert was, truthfully, banal. The strings were mushy and the woodwinds did nothing to rescue them.”

Obviously, the word banal should be used carefully.   It’s hardly complimentary.


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