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A word cloud of buzzwords related to big data Big Data (27774352248).jpg
A word cloud of buzzwords related to big data

A buzzword is a word or phrase, new or already existing, that becomes popular for a period of time. Buzzwords often derive from technical terms yet often have much of the original technical meaning removed through fashionable use, being simply used to impress others. Some "buzzwords" retain their true technical meaning when used in the correct contexts, for example artificial intelligence. [1] [2] Buzzwords often originate in jargon, acronyms, or neologisms. [3] Examples of overworked business buzzwords include synergy, vertical, dynamic, cyber and strategy.


It has been stated that businesses could not operate without buzzwords, as they are the shorthands or internal shortcuts that make perfect sense to people informed of the context. [4] However, a useful buzzword can become co-opted into general popular speech and lose its usefulness. According to management professor Robert Kreitner, "Buzzwords are the literary equivalent of Gresham's Law. They will drive out good ideas." [5] Buzzwords, or buzz-phrases such as "all on the same page", can also be seen in business as a way to make people feel like there is a mutual understanding. As most workplaces use a specialized jargon, which could be argued is another form of buzzwords, it allows quicker communication. Indeed, many new hires feel more like "part of the team" the quicker they learn the buzzwords of their new workplace. Buzzwords permeate people's working lives so much that many don't realise that they are using them. The vice president of CSC Index, Rich DeVane, notes that buzzwords describe not only a trend, but also what can be considered a "ticket of entry" with regards to being considered as a successful organization – "What people find tiresome is each consulting firm's attempt to put a different spin on it. That's what gives bad information." [6]

Buzzwords also feature prominently in politics, where they can result in a process which "privileges rhetoric over reality, producing policies that are 'operationalized' first and only 'conceptualized' at a later date". The resulting political speech is known for "eschewing reasoned debate (as characterized by the use of evidence and structured argument), instead employing language exclusively for the purposes of control and manipulation". [7]


The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines a buzzword (hyphenating the term as buzz-word) as a slogan, or as a fashionable piece of jargon: a chic, fashionable, voguish, trendy word a la mode.

It has been asserted that buzzwords do not simply appear, they are created by a group of people working within a business as a means to generate hype. [8] Buzzwords are most closely associated with management and have become the vocabulary that is known as "management speak": Using a pompous or magisterial term, of or relating to a particular subject employed to impress those outside of the field of expertise.

It could also be called buzz phrase or loaded word. [9]

What this means is that when a manager uses a said buzzword, most other people do not hear the meaning, and instead just see it as a buzzword. However it has been said that buzzwords are almost a "necessary evil" of management, as a way to inspire their team, but also stroke their own egos. [10] With that being said, a buzzword is not necessarily a bad thing, as many disciplines thrive with the introduction of new terms which can be called buzzwords. These can also cross over into pop culture and indeed even into everyday life. [8] With media channels now operating through many media, such as television, radio, print and increasingly digital (especially with the rise of social media), a "buzzword" can catch on and rapidly be adapted through the world.


The origin of buzzwords can be seen in Hallgren & Weiss (1946) as coming from business students studying at Harvard University as a way to help them gain better results from their studies. Such language terms were collated and then became what is known today as "buzzwords". During the early years of buzzwords, buzzwords were used by students as a means to enable them to quickly recall items of importance. As an example, "If his analysis does not highlight the most important problems he has 'poor focus', and if he fails to emphasize important recommendations he will be accused of 'tinkering'. If the sequence for the 'implementation' of the recommendations is not good it is a matter of 'poor timing'. To succeed, the student must 'get on top of the problem'. He must 'hit the problem' and not 'shadow box' it. If he cannot do these things he might just as well 'turn in his suit'". [11]

Students have used many different buzzwords to describe the situation that they are in, and how this might affect a moment in their everyday life. From studying these business students, Hallgren & Weiss (1946) noticed that business students could speak with apparent authority. It also seemed as if using the right buzzword was more important than what the student came up with as an answer. Buzzwords have a strong influence on business culture and are commonly used in business speak.

Jon Keegan of the Wall Street Journal has published a Business Buzzwords Generator, which allows readers to use a randomizer to assemble "meaningless business phrases using overused business buzzwords" – for example, "This product will incentivize big data and demonstrate innovative performance in the playing field." [12]

Forbes hosts an annual "Jargon Madness" game, in which 32 of "corporate America's most insufferable expressions" are played off against each other in a bracketed, basketball-style tournament to determine the buzzword of the year. [13]

LinkedIn publishes an annual list of buzzwords to avoid in creating résumés (British English: CVs) – "trite, empty words that may sound good to your ear but say almost nothing". The 2014 list: motivated, passionate, creative, driven, extensive experience, responsible, strategic, track record, organizational, and expert. [14]

When people are approaching a meeting where they expect the presenters to use many buzzwords, they may prepare a game of buzzword bingo, where players score points each time a particular buzzword is used. [15]

Patch Products has published a board game called Buzz Word. [16]

The "Weird Al" Yankovic album Mandatory Fun contains the song "Mission Statement", which is a long list of essentially meaningless buzzwords. [17]


General conversation


Business, sales and marketing

Science and technology

Politics and current affairs

See also

Related Research Articles

Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation, but any ingroup can have jargon. The main trait that distinguishes jargon from the rest of a language is special vocabulary—including some words specific to it and often different senses or meanings of words, that outgroups would tend to take in another sense—therefore misunderstanding that communication attempt. Jargon is sometimes understood as a form of technical slang and then distinguished from the official terminology used in a particular field of activity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sales</span> Activities related to the exchange of goods

Sales are activities related to selling or the number of goods sold in a given targeted time period. The delivery of a service for a cost is also considered a sale.

Business intelligence (BI) comprises the strategies and technologies used by enterprises for the data analysis and management of business information. Common functions of business intelligence technologies include reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, dashboard development, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guerrilla marketing</span> Advertising strategy using surprise and/or unconventional interactions

Guerrilla marketing is an advertisement strategy in which a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service. It is a type of publicity. The term was popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson's 1984 book Guerrilla Marketing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buzzword bingo</span> Word game

Buzzword bingo, also known as bullshit bingo, is a bingo-style game where participants prepare bingo cards with buzzwords and tick them off when they are uttered during an event, such as a meeting or speech. The goal of the game is to tick off a predetermined number of words in a row and then signal bingo to other players.

Outsourcing is an agreement in which one company hires another company to be responsible for a planned or existing activity which otherwise is or could be carried out internally, i.e. in-house, and sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm to another. The term outsourcing, which came from the phrase outside resourcing, originated no later than 1981. The concept, which The Economist says has "made its presence felt since the time of the Second World War", often involves the contracting of a business process, operational, and/or non-core functions, such as manufacturing, facility management, call center/call center support.

Viral marketing is a business strategy that uses existing social networks to promote a product mainly on various social media platforms. Its name refers to how consumers spread information about a product with other people, much in the same way that a virus spreads from one person to another. It can be delivered by word of mouth, or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet and mobile networks.

A weasel word, or anonymous authority, is an informal term for words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated. Examples include the phrases "some people say", "it is thought", and "researchers believe". Using weasel words may allow one to later deny any specific meaning if the statement is challenged, because the statement was never specific in the first place. Weasel words can be a form of tergiversation and may be used in advertising, (popular) science, opinion pieces and political statements to mislead or disguise a biased view or unsubstantiated claim.

Affiliate marketing is a marketing arrangement in which affiliates receive a commission for each visit, signup or sale they generate for a merchant. This arrangement allows businesses to outsource part of the sales process. It is a form of performance-based marketing where the commission acts as an incentive for the affiliate; this commission is usually a percentage of the price of the product being sold, but can also be a flat rate per referral.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Web 2.0</span> World Wide Web sites that use technology beyond the static pages of earlier Web sites

Web 2.0 refers to websites that emphasize user-generated content, ease of use, participatory culture and interoperability for end users.

In the technology industry, buzzword compliant is a tongue-in-cheek expression used to suggest that a particular product supports features simply because they are currently fashionable.

A thought leader has been described as an individual or firm recognized as an authority in a specific field and also as business jargon.

A Website content writer or web content writer is a person who specializes in providing relevant content for websites. Every website has a specific target audience and requires the most relevant content to attract business. Content should contain keywords aimed towards improving a website's SEO. A website content writer who also has knowledge of the SEO process is referred to as an SEO Content Writer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Content marketing</span> Form of marketing focused on creating content for a targeted audience online

Content marketing is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online. It is often used by businesses in order to achieve the following goals: attract attention and generate leads, expand their customer base, generate or increase online sales, increase brand awareness or credibility, and engage an online community of users. Content marketing attracts new customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. It helps companies create sustainable brand loyalty, provides valuable information to consumers, and creates a willingness to purchase products from the company in the future.

Marketing buzz or simply buzz—a term used in viral marketing—is the interaction of consumers and users of a product or service which amplifies or alters the original marketing message. This emotion, energy, excitement, or anticipation about a product or service can be positive or negative. Buzz can be generated by intentional marketing activities by the brand owner or it can be the result of an independent event that enters public awareness through social or traditional media such as newspapers. Marketing buzz originally referred to oral communication but in the age of Web 2.0, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are now the dominant communication channels for marketing buzz.

Buzz monitoring is the monitoring of consumer responses to commercial services and products in order to establish the marketing buzz surrounding a new or existing offer. Similar to media monitoring it is becoming increasingly popular as a base for strategic insight development alongside other forms of market research.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Psychobabble</span>

Psychobabble is a form of speech or writing that uses psychological jargon, buzzwords, and esoteric language to create an impression of truth or plausibility. The term implies that the speaker or writer lacks the experience and understanding necessary for the proper use of psychological terms. Additionally, it may imply that the content of speech deviates markedly from common sense and good judgement.

Corporate jargon, variously known as corporate speak, corporate lingo, business speak, business jargon, management speak, workplace jargon, corporatese or commercialese, is the jargon often used in large corporations, bureaucracies, and similar workplaces. The tone is associated with managers of large corporations, business management consultants, and occasionally government. Reference to such jargon is typically derogatory, implying the use of long, complicated, or obscure words, abbreviations, euphemisms, and acronyms. For that reason some of its forms may be considered as an argot. Some of these words may be actually new inventions, designed purely to fit the specialized meaning of a situation or even to "spin" negative situations as positive situations, for example, in the practice of greenwashing. Although it is pervasive in the education field, its use has been criticized as reflecting a sinister view of students as commodities and schools as retail outlets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brand language</span> Words and phrases used when marketing a product

Brand language is the body of words, phrases, and terms that an organization uses to describe its purpose or in reference to its products. Brand language is used in marketing to help consumers connect specific words or ideas to specific companies or products. When developing a brand language, word choice and tone are the two fundamental components. Word choice is the vocabulary that is used in the marketing or advertising, while tone refers to the attitude of the advertisement. Tone is not limited to language, it can also be incorporated through visual elements as well as delivery.

Word-of-mouth marketing differs from naturally occurring word of mouth, in that it is actively influenced or encouraged by organizations. While it is difficult to truly control WOM, research has shown that there are three generic avenues to 'manage' WOM for the purpose of WOMM:


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Further reading