“Gibberish” (pronounced ‘jibberish’) is rapid and inarticulate speech; talk in no known language; meaningless, incoherent, or unintelligible verbiage.

“Gibberish” is a disparaging term, often applied to language that is meaningless because of overuse of technical or legal terms, or to language games and specialized jargon that seems nonsensical to outsiders. Meaningless text such as “r#df%pis*ou#ef$ghj” is also called “gibberish.”

“Gibberish” is sometimes used as an insult to denigrate ideas or opinions the user disagrees with or finds irksome, a rough equivalent of “nonsense,” “falderal,” or “claptrap.” The implication is that the expression or proposition being criticized lacks substance or suitability, as opposed to simply being a differing view.

The etymology of gibberish is uncertain. The term was first seen in English in the early 1500s. It is generally thought to be an onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).

It may originate from the word “jib,” which is the Anglo-Romany variant of the Romany language word meaning “language” or “tongue.” To non-speakers, the Anglo-Romany dialect could sound like English mixed with nonsense words, and if those apparently nonsensical words are referred to as “jib” then the term gibberish could be taken as a description of nonsensical speech. Though, of course, it wouldn’t have been nonsense to a Romany speaker.

Another theory is that gibberish came from the name of a famous 8th century Persian alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as Geber. Thus, gibberish was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon and allegorical coded language used by Jabir and other alchemists.

One usage of gibberish is as part of Osho’s “Gibberish meditation” which has been derived from an old Sufi practice.

We can excuse small children for their gibberish, for they sometimes love to simply make sounds. Older children like to make up languages, such as pig latin, so that “out” groups, especially adults, don’t understand what they’re saying. 

My favorite gibberish is Lewis Carroll’s poem, Jabberwocky: 

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
     And the mome raths outgrabe. 

It’s just enough like English, especially with the clever use of English words and grammar, that I always feel like I almost understand it.

  One thought on “gibberish

  1. May 17, 2020 at 7:12 am

    I loved today’s word Jibberish and also your mention of Lewis Carroll and Jabberwocky- one of my favourite poems too. Charles Dodgson was the curate at a local church in England near my parents. There are a few reminders in the church of his presence there. My mum’s WI used to sell Alice in Wonderland cards. Funny old world eh?


  2. Leanne Taylor
    May 24, 2020 at 8:23 am

    “Flapdoodle” and “hogwash” = :-), too.

    Love your blog!

    (What is “WI”?)


    • May 24, 2020 at 8:27 am

      WI stands for Women’s Institute, an English association of women devoted, as far as I know, to “good works.” Maybe knitting and gossip, too. lol


  3. Leanne Taylor
    May 24, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Interesting! Thsnk you for clarificstion! I don’t knit, or at least haven’t in many years, but the gossip I could “go for”. (<– uh oh 😉
    Oh, and re "Funny old world … ", ours is becoming lately "curiouser and curiouser". But imho, there is still much to love about it (most days;-).


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