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Ultimately from Latin ponderōsus (weighty).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɒn.dəɹ.əs/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɑn.dɚ.əs/
  • Audio (US):(file)



ponderous (comparative more ponderous, superlative most ponderous)

  1. Heavy, massive, weighty.
    • 1879, Julian Hawthorne, chapter 5, in Archibald Malmaison:
      [H]e saw, at the end of a shallow embrasure, a ponderous door of dark wood, braced with iron.
    • c. 1920, Edgar B. P. Darlington, chapter 4, in The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings:
      The great elephant, when the cage was being placed, would, at a signal from its keeper, place its ponderous head against one side of the cage and push.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) Serious, onerous, oppressive.
    • 1781, Samuel Johnson, “Dryden”, in Lives of the Poets:
      It was Dryden's opinion . . . that the drama required an alternation of comick and tragick scenes; and that it is necessary to mitigate, by alleviations of merriment, the pressure of ponderous events, and the fatigue of toilsome passions.
    • 1845, Charles Dickens, chapter 11, in Pictures From Italy:
      In its court-yard—worthy of the Castle of Otranto in its ponderous gloom—is a massive staircase.
    • 1915, Virginia Woolf, chapter 19, in The Voyage Out:
      For the time, her own body was the source of all the life in the world, which tried to burst forth here—there—and was repressed now by Mr. Bax, now by Evelyn, now by the imposition of ponderous stupidity.
  3. Clumsy, unwieldy, or slow, especially due to weight.
    • 1852 July, Herman Melville, “Book XVI. First Night of Their Arrival in the City.”, in Pierre: Or, The Ambiguities, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, [], →OCLC, section I, pages 312–313:
      [T]he inmates of the coach, by numerous hard, painful joltings, and ponderous, dragging trundlings, are suddenly made sensible of some great change in the character of the road.
    • 1915, Samuel Hopkins Adams, chapter 10, in Little Miss Grouch:
      Slowly, through an increasing glow that lighted land and water alike, the leviathan of the deep made her ponderous progress to the hill-encircled harbor.
    • 1919, Virginia Woolf, Kew Gardens:
      Following his steps . . . came two elderly women of the lower middle class, one stout and ponderous, the other rosy cheeked and nimble.
  4. Dull, boring, tedious; long-winded in expression.
    • 1863, Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis:
      Over supper the minister did unbend a little into one or two ponderous jokes.
    • 1918, Gene Stratton-Porter, chapter 2, in A Daughter Of The Land:
      [A]s certainly as any one said anything in her presence that she had occasion to repeat, she changed the wording to six-syllabled mouthfuls, delivered with ponderous circumlocution.
  5. (rare) Characterized by or associated with pondering.
    • c. 1660, Thomas Manton, “Sermon Upon John III”, in Works of Thomas Manton, 2002 edition, →ISBN, page 464:
      Ponderous thoughts take hold of the heart; musing maketh the fire to burn, and steady sight hath the greatest influence upon us.
    • 1804, The Literary Magazine and American Register, volume 2, number 7, page 10:
      The acute and ponderous mind of Dr. Johnson was not always right in its decisions.
    • 1850, Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, volume 41, page 242:
      They are the pleasantest of all companions, and perhaps the most affluent in correct opinions of men and things generally, although little addicted to ponderous consideration or deep research.
  6. (obsolete) Dense.



Derived terms



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