What Does 'Malarkey' Mean?

Alyssa Martino, QDT Editor
2-minute read

“That’s a bunch of malarkey," Vice President Joe Biden said in his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, referencing Trump's claim that he cares about the middle class. As usual,  people on Twitter had a lot of thoughts about the use of this unusual word:

What Does 'Malarkey' Mean?

MerriamWebster.com notes that malarkey was one of their top look-ups overnight, and defines the word as "insincere or foolish talk; bunkum." The site also notes that, "Though there are a number of theories as to the word's origins, no one is positive where it comes from."

NPR also notes that the origin is unclear—malarkey may come from Greek or an Irish surname, but nobody really knows:

it came into use in the 1920s and its specific origin is unknown. There is an Irish name — Mullarkey. But a connection from the name to the word hasn't been established. Malarkey might even be from modern Greek: "μαλακός (malakos) soft, or its derivative μαλακία (malakia)."

Despite its unknown etymology, The Washington Post added that, interestingly enough, there's no shortage of words with similar definitions:

The English language overflows with variations on nonsense. There’s poppycock — American origin — codswallop (British, as it were). And, as Lehigh University English professor Amardeep Singh dissects, an unholy host that includes balderdash, bunk, claptrapgobbledygookhokum, hogwash and mumbo jumbo. The list goes on. Perhaps one of the newest arrivals is woo or woo-woo, most frequently wielded by skeptics at pseudoscience.

Regardless of your politics, speech rhetoric can provide valuable insight into our language and culture as a whole: there's a lot of malarkey out there.