A ''buzzword'' is a word or phrase, new or already existing, that becomes very popular for a period of time. Buzzwords often derive from technical terms yet often have much of the original technical meaning removed through fashionable use, being simply used to impress others. Some "buzzwords" retain their true technical meaning when used in the correct contexts, for example
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. Buzzwords often originate in
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
acronym An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
s, or
neologism A neologism (; from Greek νέο- ''néo-'', "new" and λόγος ''lógos'', "speech, utterance") is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted ...
s.Grammar.About.com - definition of buzzword
Examples of overworked business buzzwords include ''synergy'', ''vertical'', ''dynamic'', ''cyber'' and ''strategy''. A common buzzword phrase is "
think outside the box Thinking outside the box (also thinking out of the box or thinking beyond the box and, especially in Australian English, Australia, thinking outside the square) is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new persp ...

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". It has been stated that
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

es could not operate without buzzwords, as they are shorthands or internal shortcuts that make perfect sense to people informed of the context. 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
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. They will drive out good ideas." Buzzwords, or buzzphrases such as "all on the same page", can also be seen in business as a way to make people feel like they are all on the same page. As most workplaces use a specialized jargon, which could be argued is another form of buzzwords, it allows quicker communication. Indeed, many new hires feel more like "part of the team" the quicker they learn the buzzwords of their new workplace. Buzzwords permeate people's working lives so much that many don't realise that they are using them. The vice president of CSC Index, Rich DeVane, notes that buzzwords describe not only a trend, but also what can be considered a "ticket of entry" with regards to being considered as a successful organization – "What people find tiresome is each consulting firm's attempt to put a different spin on it. That's what gives bad information." Buzzwords also feature prominently in
politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of res ...

, 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".


The ''
Concise Oxford English Dictionary The ''Concise Oxford English Dictionary'' (officially titled ''The Concise Oxford Dictionary'' until 2002, and widely abbreviated ''COD'' or ''COED'') is probably the best-known of the 'smaller' Oxford dictionary, dictionaries. The latest editi ...
'' defines a buzzword (hyphenating the term as ''buzz-word'') as a
slogan A slogan is a memorable motto or phrase used in a clan, political slogan, political, Advertising slogan, commercial, religious, and other context as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose, with the goal of persuading members of the publi ...

, or as a fashionable piece of
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
: a chic, fashionable, voguish, trendy word a la mode. It has been asserted that buzzwords do not simply appear, they are created by a group of people working within a business as a means to generate hype. Buzzwords are most closely associated with management and have become the vocabulary that is known as "management speak": Using a pompous or magisterial term, of or relating to a particular subject employed to impress those outside of the field of expertise. It could also be called buzz phrase or
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. What this means is that when a manager uses a said buzzword, most other people do not hear the meaning, and instead just see it as a buzzword. However it has been said that buzzwords are almost a "necessary evil" of management, as a way to inspire their team, but also stroke their own egos. With that being said, a buzzword is not necessarily a bad thing, as many disciplines thrive with the introduction of new terms which can be called buzzwords. These can also cross over into pop culture and indeed even into everyday life. With media channels now operating through many media, such as television, radio, print and increasingly digital (especially with the rise of social media), a "buzzword" can catch on and rapidly be adapted through the world.


The origin of buzzwords can be seen in as coming from business students studying at
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as a way to help them gain better results from their studies. Such language terms were collated and then became what is known today as "buzzwords". During the early years of buzzwords, buzzwords were used by students as a means to enable them to quickly recall items of importance. As an example, "If his analysis does not highlight the most important problems he has 'poor focus', and if he fails to emphasize important recommendations he will be accused of 'tinkering'. If the sequence for the 'implementation' of the recommendations is not good it is a matter of 'poor timing'. To succeed, the student must 'get on top of the problem'. He must 'hit the problem' and not 'shadow box' it. If he cannot do these things he might just as well 'turn in his suit'". Students have used many different buzzwords to describe the situation that they are in, and how this might affect a moment in their everyday life. From studying these business students, noticed that business students could speak with apparent authority. It also seemed as if using the right buzzword was more important than what the student came up with as an answer. Buzzwords have a strong impact on business culture and are commonly used in business speak.

In popular culture

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 Big data is a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data set A data set (or dataset) is a collection of data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of informati ...

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and demonstrate innovative performance in the playing field." ''
Forbes ''Forbes'' () is an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family The Forbes family is one of the Boston Brahmins—a wealthy extended American family long prominent in Boston, Massachusett ...

'' 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, basketball-style tournament to determine the buzzword of the year. LinkedIn publishes an annual list of buzzwords to avoid in creating
résumé A résumé, sometimes spelled resume, called a CV in English outside North America, is a document created and used by a person to present their background, skills, and accomplishments. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons, but most oft ...

s (British English:
s) – "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''. When people are approaching a meeting where they expect the presenters to use many buzzwords, they may prepare a game of buzzword bingo, where players score points each time a particular buzzword is used. Patch Products has published a board game called ''Buzz Word''. The
"Weird Al" Yankovic Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic ( ; born October 23, 1959) is an American singer, musician, record producer, and actor who is known for Comedy music, humorous songs that make light of popular culture, pop culture and often parody specific ...
album ''
Mandatory Fun ''Mandatory Fun'' is the fourteenth studio album by American musician "Weird Al" Yankovic. The self-produced album was released by RCA Records in the United States on July 15, 2014. Yankovic had previously released ''Alpocalypse'' in 2011 and was t ...
'' contains the song "Mission Statement", which is a long list of essentially meaningless buzzwords.


General conversation


Business, sales and marketing

Science and technology

Politics and current affairs


* Antifragile * Best-in-class

See also



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Further reading

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External links

* * {{Propaganda Propaganda techniques using words Rhetorical techniques