• Exhibiting little effort and seemingly little forethought or consideration, especially in language

  • Elegant or palatable, but disingenuous or manipulative, especially in language


Despite how much there is out there to know, we hope the people we interact with know what they’re talking about, at least when it counts. After all, that’s the whole idea behind specialization, because if we all dedicate ourselves to one area of expertise (maybe two), we can always consult experts to get the best information. Sometimes, especially in casual conversations, we run into someone who’s a bit glib even in the face of our earnest inquiries. In the end, though, we can usually count on our friends since, even when they’re not experts, we can trust them to give our quandary the careful consideration we’re looking for.

Glib describes someone or something, usually the language or manner one has in conversation, as proceeding very casually or exhibiting relatively little reflection before contributing. In other words, to be glib is to approach an exchange of ideas on the cavalier side, not putting forth the effort to form concrete, comprehensive, or well-thought out points. For instance, guests at an elegant party might take part in a glib discussion of the economy, meaning that it is not very exhaustive or profound. Furthermore, their relatively superficial discourse could be indulged by a glib economics professor, who maybe doesn’t feel like getting too involved or just wants to see what the other guests think.

The latter example touches on a key element of glib, which is that the word does not necessarily mean that one is not informed or knowledgeable. The economics professor probably understands the nature of market forces, but in this instance she did not care to apply it in the conversation, and so her contributions manifested her glib disposition. It should also be noted that when glib describes a person, it generally refers to a temporary mood or state of mind rather than an overall, chronic tendency. Accordingly, a glib bearing is not hard to shake off: one merely has to give one’s points some thought and let it come out through words.

The word glib can also characterize people or their style of communication as outwardly graceful, charismatic, or appealing, but in truth insincere or misleading. For example, a glib coworker might pay you a compliment - you could also say your coworker paid you a glib compliment - on your work when they’re just trying to butter you up for some reason. This would imply that though they may use lofty or flowery words, they do not mean them, but simply use such words for their effect on you. Depending on which sense of glib is at work, the word can mean that one either puts too little thought into one’s words or deviously too much.

Example: The academic found the host’s glib discussion of reality TV to be tiring.

Example: The political candidate made glib overtures on the need to reduce the tax burden on the wealthy.

Example: The demagogue’s speech was filled with shallow, over-simplified and glib remarks.


Before its arrival in English in the late-16th century, the exact origin of glib is uncertain, though it is believed to have Germanic roots. It is possible that the word is merely a truncation of the now-defunct English word glibbery, which means “slippery,” or it may have come directly from their common ancestor, the Low German glibberig which also means “slippery” as well as “slimy” and “smooth.” This word comes from the Middle Low German glibberich, which in turn stems from glibber, meaning “jelly.”

Derivative Words

Glibber: This comparative adjective indicates that something, usually speech, comes relatively more easily or is smoother and less sincere than something else.

Example: As the debate went on, her contentions got glibber and glibber in her frantic attempt to parry her opponent’s points.

Example: He was the least popular adviser in the department, as the students saw him as glibber and more patronizing than his colleagues.

Glibbest: This superlative form signifies that a thing or person manifests points in the least inhibited or considered way, or in the most wheedling and deceptive one.

Example: Not wanting to feel left out, he made the glibbest contribution to the discussion of the hit new show, which he hadn’t seen.

Example: The candidate was the first to drop out of the race, as voters saw her as the glibbest one among the field of competitors.

Glibly: The adverb form of glib notes when actions are done or exhibited easily and with little reflection, or charismatically and manipulatively.

Example: The dentist glibly tried to make small talk with his patient, to little effect.

Example: Their boss glibly pitched the labor-intensive new project, for which her employees would not receive additional compensation.

Glibness: Glibness is the quality of ready, uninformed issuance or disingenuousness.

Example: Her date took her glibness for lack of interest, prompting a swift change in topic.

Example: The glibness of his negotiating style made him an adept businessman, but sometimes betrayed a slippery streak.

In Literature

From C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces:

Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words.

Lewis here contrasts how elegantly simple yet misleading, or glib, the axiom of expressing exactly what is on your mind is with the hesitation we all feel when actually called upon to do so. It's understandably alluring to think we will readily tell the truth, but it always proves far more daunting to do so in the heat of the moment.


  • Being glib will lead you to gloss over the details.

  • One who is glib might use elegance to mask a fib.


Personality, Language, Communication, Thought, Ideas

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of glib. Did you use glib in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.