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See also: Babbitt


Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for babbitt in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


Etymology 1[edit]

Named for American inventor Isaac Babbitt (1799–1862).


babbitt (plural babbitts)

  1. Babbitt metal.


babbitt (third-person singular simple present babbitts, present participle babbitting, simple past and past participle babbitted)

  1. (transitive) To line with Babbitt metal to reduce friction.

Etymology 2[edit]

Named after the title character in Sinclair Lewis' 1922 novel, Babbitt. Also popularised by the George and Ira Gershwin song “The Babbitt and the Bromide”, featured first in the 1927 musical “Funny Face” and later in the film Ziegfeld Follies (1945).

Alternative forms[edit]


babbitt (plural babbitts)

  1. A person who subscribes complacently to materialistic middle-class ideals.
    • 1927 Ira Gershwin, "The Babbit and the Bromide," from the stage musical "Funny Face" (1927). Lyrics collected in: Louis Kronenberger (2008) An Anthology of Light Verse, p.234
      A Babbitt met a Bromide on the avenue one day. They held a conversation in their own peculiar way.
    • 1930 The Literary digest, Volume 105, Funk and Wagnalls, p.21
      One speaks of a babbitt habit, a babbitt era. Nothing is more true. America recognized itself in Babbitt, it demurred, but it also admired.
    • 1951 The Georgia review, Volume 5, University of Georgia, p.150
      If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a Babbitt. Say, there's nothing more wonderful than defying middle-class conventions.
    • 2002 Tamkang review, Volume 33, Tamkang College of Arts and Sciences, p.158
      [] a "babbitt" is a person full of self-confident bluster who is nevertheless a narrowminded philistine and a hypocrite.
    • 2003 William Hyland, George Gershwin: a new biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.116
      Ira relished telling the story that Fred Astaire took him aside and said he knew what a babbitt was, but what was a bromide?
    • 2009 Phillip G. Payne, Dead last: the public memory of Warren G. Harding's scandalous legacy, Ohio University Press, p.12
      In this sense Harding was a Babbitt. Intellectuals and journalists rejected Harding as being as empty as the Sinclair Lewis character.


Further reading[edit]