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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


unnecessary ceremonial and fuss

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun flummery was first used in English in the early 17th century. It comes from the Welsh word ‘llymru’ whose meaning and etymology are obscure. The meaning above dates from the mid 18th century.


Flummery originally referred to a kind of food made by boiling oatmeal or wheatmeal to a jelly, then used as an accompaniment to savoury dishes.  It later came to be used to mean a type of sweet concoction made with milk, flour and eggs. In this meaning it is first recorded in a cookery book by the 18th century writer Hannah Glasse, published in 1747. At roughly the same time, flummery started to be used figuratively to refer to empty flattery or meaningless compliments, later extended to refer to unnecessary fuss or empty ceremonial. Flummery is one of a number of British puddings that are variously described as creamy and delicate or bland and tasteless, according to personal preference: they include blancmange, custard, junket, rice pudding and semolina. What links flummery the dessert to the figurative meaning is perhaps its light, smooth quality and lack of substance.


Fox: Do you enjoy all this flummery, Mr. Pitt?

Pitt: No, Mr. Fox.

Fox: Do you enjoy anything, Mr. Pitt?

Pitt: A balance sheet, Mr. Fox. I enjoy a good balance sheet.”
(Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George)

Related words

ceremony, pomp, ritual

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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