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A buzzword is a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time. It may be a technical term and may have little meaning, being simply used to impress others.[1][2] Buzzwords often originate in jargon, acronyms, or neologisms.[3] Business speech is particularly vulnerable to buzzwords.[citation needed] Examples of overworked business buzzwords include synergy, vertical, dynamic, cyber and strategy; a common buzzword phrase is "think outside the box".[4]

It has been stated that businesses could not operate without buzzwords as they are shorthands or internal shortcuts that make perfect sense to people informed of the context.[5] However, a useful buzzword can become co-opted into general popular speech and lose its usefulness. According to management professor Robert Kreitner, "Buzzwords are the literary equivalent of Gresham's Law. They will drive out good ideas."[6]

Buzzwords also feature prominently in politics, where they can result in a process which "privileges rhetoric over reality, producing policies that are 'operationalized' first and only 'conceptualized' at a later date". The resulting political speech is known for "eschewing reasoned debate (as characterized by the use of evidence and structured argument), instead employing language exclusively for the purposes of control and manipulation".[7]

The term buzz word was first used in 1946 as student slang.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Jon Keegan of the Wall Street Journal has published a Business Buzzwords Generator, which allows readers to use a randomizer to assemble "meaningless business phrases using overused business buzzwords" - for example, "This product will incentivize Big Data and demonstrate innovative performance in the playing field.”[9]

Forbes hosts an annual "Jargon Madness" game, in which 32 of "corporate America’s most insufferable expressions" are played off against each other in a bracketed, bastketball-style tournament to determine the buzzword of the year.[10]

LinkedIn publishes an annual list of buzzwords to avoid in creating résumés - "trite, empty words that may sound good to your ear but say almost nothing". The 2014 list: motivated, passionate, creative, driven, extensive experience, responsible, strategic, track record, organizational, and expert.[11]

Sometimes when people are approaching a meeting where they expect the presenters to use many buzzwords, they will prepare a game of Buzzword bingo, where players score points each time a particular buzzword is used.[12]

Patch Products has published a board game called Buzz Word.[13]

The "Weird Al" Yankovic album "Mandatory Fun" contains the song "Mission Statement," which is a long list of essentially meaningless buzzwords. [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Buzzword". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Compare: "buzzword n. orig. and chiefly U.S. a keyword; a catchword or expression currently fashionable; a term used more to impress than to inform, esp. a technical or jargon term." "buzz". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ - definition of buzzword
  4. ^ Compare: Kirwan, Khelan (January 6, 2015). "Small Business Show - The Language of Business". The Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2015-09-06. So when you’re pitching new ideas to your business team here are some things to avoid: [...] Think Outside the Box and other annoying phrases[.] Oh my word how this phrase finds itself everywhere, so much so that it has lost its glow and become more of an irritancy than a motivational call for new thinking. 
  5. ^ Ettorre, Barbara (September 1997). "What's the Next Business Buzzword?". Management Review 86 (8). Retrieved 2015-09-06. How can corporate America operate without buzzwords? They will be with us always because business organizations are a ready market for them. [...] These are internal short-cuts. To outsiders, they might be little understood, but to everyone in the organization, they make perfect sense. 
  6. ^ Ettorre, Barbara (September 1997). "What's the Next Business Buzzword?". Management Review 86 (8). Retrieved 2015-09-06. Robert Kreitner, senior lecturer and professor of management at Arizona State University, equates buzzwords with the economic theory holding that bad money drives out good money. 'Buzzwords are the literary equivalent of Gresham's Law,' Kreitner says. 'They will drive out good ideas[...].' 
  7. ^ Loughlin, Michael (May 2002). "On the buzzword approach to policy formation". Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 8 (2): 229–242. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2753.2002.00361.x. 
  8. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian.
  9. ^ "Business Buzzwords Generator". Wall Street Journal:Projects. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Nelson, Brett (February 5, 2013). "Business Jargon Bracketology: Which Annoying Corporate Buzzword, Cliché Or Euphemism Will Win Forbes' NCAA-Style Tourney? Vote Now!". Forbes. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Adams, Susan (January 21, 2015). "Ten Buzzwords To Cut From Your LinkedIn Profile In 2015". Forbes. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Belling, Larry (2000). "Buzzword Bingo". Retrieved 5 November 2009. 
  13. ^ "Buzz Word". Patch Products, Inc. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "'Weird Al' Yankovic Announces His 'Mission Statement' in Final Video". Retrieved 2015-05-30. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Negus, K. Pickering, M. 2004. Creativity, Communication and Cultural Value. Sage Publications Ltd
  • Collins, David. 2000. Management fads and buzzwords : critical-practical perspectives. London ; New York : Routledge
  • Godin, B. 2006. The Knowledge-Based Economy: Conceptual Framework or Buzzword?. The Journal of technology transfer 31 (1): 17-.

External links[edit]