The word blithering came up today in a comedy show I was listening to and this got me wondering about it’s origins.

It’s normally accompanied by idiot, as in blithering idiot, and means:

  1. talking incoherently, foolishly; senselessly talkative
  2. jabbering
  3. stupid, foolish, contemptible

Blithering comes from blither (to talk nonsense), which is a variant of blather, which is a Scots word probably from the Old Norse blaðra (chatter, babble) blaðr (nonsense).

This entry was posted in Etymology, Language, Words and phrases.

11 Responses to Blithering

  1. TJ says:

    That’s weird.
    Here in the dialect (not stanard Arabic) we sometimes call the non-sensical talking as “Haðra” (there are other words as well). Looks so close to Blaðra!???

    The verb can be “yihaðir” (he speaks non-sense) or some people say it as “yahðir”, while some say it with no vowels after “Y” like “(e)yhaðir”. (e) is like, a schwa somewhat.

  2. Yenlit says:

    ‘Blithering’ now really only occurs in the set phrase’ “blithering idiot” and ‘blither’, ‘blether’, ‘blather’ are probably related in some sense to the word “bladder”? There’s also the old fashion word “blatherskite” a variation on the ‘blithering idiot’ theme.

  3. Seumas says:

    We tend to say ‘blether’ rather than ‘blather’ in Scotland.

  4. Arakun says:

    In Swedish we use “babbla” or “pladdra” (‘[to] talk nonsense’). They’re supposed to be onomatopoeic and similar words appear in other languages, like Latin “babulāre”. That could explain the similarities between “haðra” and “blaðra” mentioned by TJ above.

  5. Arakun says:

    I guess “blithering idiot” could be translated as “lallande fåne” or “lallande idiot” in Swedish. I have no idea why the word “lalla” is used here instad.

  6. Declan says:

    I’d only say blithering idiot, but I would use blather more, though still rarely. Waffle, or waffling, ravings or raving would be my equivalent.

  7. Yenlit says:

    Simon – Your hovercraft is full of eels – are you being a topical ‘blithering idiot’?!

  8. Yenlit says:

    To me “raving” suggests the dangerously deluded muttering of madmen rather than the empty nonsense of fools and idiots while “babbling” is more poetically linked with water, rivers and streams ie. “babbling brook”.

  9. DA says:

    Simon, do you know the Welsh word “brawlan” meaning to jabber or gabble, probably related to the English brawl. I’m guessing at the spelling as have only heard/used it spoken, not written before.

  10. Yenlit says:

    It’s spelt “brewlan” if that’s what I think you’ve heard?

  11. Simon says:

    DA & Yenlit – I haven’t heard of either brawlan or brewlan.

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