The Meaning of Banal: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of banal? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word banal, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word banal mean?

According to Cambridge English Dictionary, Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Language Dictionary, the word banal (pronounced bəˈnæl) is an adjective that can describe something that lacks originality or novelty. Something that is banal is commonplace or trite, and could also be considered boring or dated. This could be used to refer to something that one can overuse, such as a cliched phrase or overused meme. This is a great reason to expand your vocabulary and to continue using new words – you wouldn’t want your commonly used phrases to grow banal!

There are also many different languages that use words that mean banal. You may notice that many of these languages use words that are cognates for the word banal, which are words that look and sound similar. This is likely due to the fact that they have the same origin or root word. This is common amongst languages of similar origin, such as the romance languages that derive from Latin. This list of translations for the word banal is provided by Word Sense.

  • Russian: бана́льный‎, изби́тый‎, обыкнове́нный‎
  • French: banal‎
  • Swedish: banal‎
  • German: banal‎
  • Portuguese: banal‎
  • Hebrew: שטחי‎ (shitkhí), בנלי‎ (banáli)
  • Italian: banale‎
  • Norwegian: banal‎ (masc.) (f), banalt‎
  • Kyrgyz: тамтыгы чыккан‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 平凡‎ (píngfán), 平庸‎ (píngyōng), 平常‎ (píngcháng)
  • Georgian: ბანალური‎
  • Czech: banální‎
  • Catalan: banal‎
  • Spanish: banal‎
  • Japanese: ありふれた‎ (arifureta), 陳腐‎
  • West Frisian: plat‎
  • Galician: banal‎
  • Malay: basi‎, banal‎
  • Bulgarian: обикновен‎, банален‎
  • Finnish: lattea‎, itsestään selvä‎
  • Lithuanian: banalus‎ (masc.)
  • Polish: banalny‎
  • Albanian: banal‎
  • Interlingua: banal‎
  • Esperanto: banala‎
  • Hungarian: banális‎
  • Greek: μπανάλ‎
  • Dutch: banaal‎

How can the word banal be used in a sentence?

The word banal can be used in many different circumstances to describe things that are commonplace, or that lack originality. In this first example, Rebecca’s art teacher is commenting on the work that the class has turned in.

Teacher: Class, I must say I am disappointed in this work that you’ve presented. I see no originality, no thought, no process. I see drawings, not art. This banal work will not fly in my class. Do you want to become artists or not?

Rebecca: Professor, I think you’re being too harsh. First of all, this is Art 101. None of us have experience, that’s why we’re taking this class. Second, this was a perspective assignment. It was about being accurate.

Here, Rebecca’s teacher judges the artwork of the class for being banal and unoriginal. In this next example, Linda and Jeff are touring houses that they are interested in purchasing. They look into building their own house.

Agent: This is one of our model homes. You get to choose all of your details as well as one of three different layouts.

Jeff: What do you think, Linda?

Linda: It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, it just all feels a little… banal. I always envisioned owning an old house with a lot of charm and quirk.

What are synonyms and antonyms for banal?

There are many different words that someone can use in place of the word banal. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you are trying to expand your current English vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word banal are provided by Thesaurus.

  • cornball
  • tripe
  • cornfed
  • platitudinous
  • common
  • unimaginative
  • nowhere
  • humdrum
  • corny
  • vapid
  • square
  • bland
  • pedestrian
  • dumb
  • stock
  • stale
  • conventional
  • stereotyped
  • mundane
  • dull as dishwater
  • watery
  • hackneyed
  • hokey
  • ho hum
  • unoriginal
  • wishy-washy
  • noplace
  • zero
  • pabulum
  • cliched
  • trite
  • stupid
  • blah
  • insipid
  • old hat
  • flat
  • tired
  • nothing
  • bromidic
  • everyday
  • ordinary
  • commonplace

There are also numerous words that have the opposite meaning of the word banal. These are called antonyms, which are also very useful to know if you are trying to work on your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word banal is also provided by Thesaurus

  • original
  • avant garde
  • untried
  • seminal
  • ingenious
  • generative
  • fresh
  • formative
  • unusual
  • novel
  • envisioning
  • causal
  • innovational
  • conceiving
  • sensitive
  • quick
  • demiurgic
  • innovatory
  • innovative
  • originative
  • unprecedented
  • fertile
  • inspiring
  • ready
  • productive
  • creative
  • causative
  • devising
  • imaginative
  • new
  • breaking new ground
  • resourceful
  • unconventional
  • inventive

What is the origin of the word banal?

According to Etymonline, the word banal has been used since the year 1840 to mean trite or commonplace. This derives directly from the French banal meaning common or hackneyed. The French term comes from the Old French banel meaning communal which has been used since the 13th century. This term comes from the root word ban meaning a decree or legal control, which comes from the Proto-Germanic bannan meaning to speak publicly. The modern sense of the word has evolved from using it to designate certain items to serfs, and came to mean something that was open to everyone. From there, the word took on the meaning of being trite or commonplace. The word was used slightly earlier in the year 1753 to mean something that pertained to a compulsory feudal service. Related words include the verb banalize, the adverb banally and the noun banalization, as well as the noun banality.

Overall, the word banal is an adjective that describes things that lack originality, or things that are common or trite. This word has a negative connotation and is often used with judgment toward things. The word banal is of Latin origin.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/banal
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/original
  3. https://www.wordsense.eu/banal/
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/banal#etymonline_v_250
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/banal#:~:text=%3A%20lacking%20originality%2C%20freshness%2C%20or%20novelty%20%3A%20trite
  6. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/banal
  7. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/banal