We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What does It Mean to be "Full of Hot Air"?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

When someone is said to be “full of hot air,” it means that he or she talks a lot about topics that he or she doesn't really understand. This slang term has its origins in the United States, and it appears to date to the late 1800s. In addition to being “full” of it, something can be referred to simply as “hot air,” a shorthand reference to the longer saying. As a general rule, when one is accused of this, it is not a compliment.

In order to understand the meaning of this phrase, you simply need to know that as air heats, it expands. This trait is exploited to do a wide variety of things, including filling hot air balloons. In the case of a hot air balloon, the air becomes lighter than the surrounding environment, allowing the balloon to float, so one could imagine someone being so full of hot air that he or she simply floats away. Or, more simply, the speech of someone like this tends to fill a space quickly, without offering much in the way of substance.

This term is used to describe exaggerations, empty talk, and obvious hyperbole. The implication is that the speaker is talking only to hear his or her own voice; filling the space with hot air, in other words. Typically, someone who is full of hot air will cheerfully discuss complicated topics without fully grasping them, which can be a subject of amusement for people who are more knowledgeable.

Politicians in particular are often accused of being full of hot air, making empty promises that they cannot, in fact, keep. Many politicians strive to counter this classic image by pointing to previous activities that they have orchestrated or participated in, attempting to prove that they do, in fact, know what they are talking about. The term may also be used more generally to describe bombastic, pushy individuals who insist on being heard at any group or gathering, whether or not their views are helpful.

It is also possible to hear a plan or idea referred to as “hot air,” in addition to hearing the term in reference to people. The term is also sometimes used to describe organizations, suggesting that the heads of the organization are not really sure of what they are doing, and that as a result, their plans or schemes will probably end up failing.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mammmood — On Jun 01, 2011

Being full of “hot air” also refers to people who make empty threats to people which they have no capacity to follow through on. It’s a form of manipulation and control. Here I think it’s important to note the difference between someone just kidding around about a threat, and someone who is attempting to make a real threat.

For example, people flippantly say things like, “If you do that again, I’ll kill you”-when of course they don’t really mean that, it’s just an exaggeration showing the gravity of the situation. However, some people make threats and they intend to suggest they can carry through, when in fact that they can’t; these people, in the truest sense of the term, are full of hot air.

By cupcake15 — On Jun 01, 2011

@Crispety - I know what you mean. My friend is trying to get her son to be more independent. He is 25 and still lives at home, but she pays all of his bills for him. She pays for his car along with his insurance and cell phone. He also does not help his mother with any of the bills and has a modest job although he just graduated from college.

She keeps giving him ultimatums but he continues to live the same lifestyle because his mother is too afraid to throw him out of the house. It is really a hard situation to be in as a parent, but my friend’s son is losing out on building his self confidence because all is provided for him.

I think that he is too comfortable and will not make a change because he really doesn’t have to.

By Crispety — On Jun 01, 2011

@Sunny27 -I agree with you. I think that the full of hot air meaning also refers to empty promises and saying things that people want to hear. For example, most politicians discuss problems with the educational system in the United States, but all of them refuse to make any changes to that system.

If there are no changes to the system, then how can you expect the situation to improve? It is just like when you tell a child that if they misbehave there will be consequences and when they misbehave you don’t follow through on the consequences and the child does not get punished, it sends a bad message to the child.

The child learns that the parent is full of hot air and doesn’t really mean what they say. I believe that actions that don’t have consequences tend to repeat themselves. Children that grow up with these messages tend to not take rules seriously and are often shocked when the consequences of not following the rules are applied to them when they grow up.

By Sunny27 — On Jun 01, 2011

I think that politicians are full of hot air when they discuss cutting spending measures. They all say that it needs to be done, but they just keep spending more money.

This is why the general public does not normally believe the promises that these politicians make because most believe that they are indebted to their supporters who have donated money to their campaigns.

For example, if a politician received large donations from many unions they will defend the issues important to the unions even though it may be in direct conflict with what their constituents want. This is why people believe that most politicians are full of hot air and only say what people want to hear.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.