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 from 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 Is a Glittering Generality?

By A. Leverkuhn
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.

A glittering generality is a word or phrase that carries a strong emotional appeal, with versatility for rhetorical use. Rhetoric is the study of how language is used to appeal to an audience. The glittering generality, as a rhetorical technique, represents a simple and fundamental strategy for evoking certain emotions and reactions on the part of listeners or readers.

The main characteristics of glittering generalities is that they are vaguely worded, and contain ideas that are commonly considered extremely important in a given community. Some of the most classic examples of a glittering generality consist of political terms related to desirable traits for a nation or society. For example, the words “freedom” or “hope,” or even the word “democracy” can be considered glittering generalities in many Western cultures.

Along with words and phrases that appeal to an individual’s sense of freedom, other glittering generalities are often applied to describe individuals. Some of these include words like “courage,” “honor,” or simply “strength.” These glittering generalities are often used to describe an audience in order to flatter a group of people for political reasons.

Part of the theory behind the evaluation of glittering generalities is that words that are used so extensively and so broadly as some of the above, tend to become somewhat meaningless to an audience. This is particularly true as modern societies grow more literate and linguistically advanced. Many experts talk about irony or progressive sophistication in a target audience, where many of the words identified as glittering generalities may have had a lot of rhetorical power in the past, but are now much less useful for those who want to sway the ideas of a group of people.

Some other related rhetorical terms tend to go along with the idea of using a glittering generality. Some social science experts refer to the idea of a “golden hammer,” which, in communications, is a word or phrase that is extensively relied on by a speaker or writer. As mentioned above, these types of phrases tend to lose power with excessive use, and critical members of an audience may consider them to be an indication that the speaker has little of substance to say.

Another term that may be related to glittering generalities is the ideograph. Those who coined this term have defined it as a simple word or phrase that is used in a context. The theory is that the ideograph works to characterize or manifest certain ideological elements that speakers or writers convey to an audience by way of particular word choice. This also applies to commonly identified glittering generalities that tend to embody a popular ideal held by a large number of people.

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.

Discussion Comments

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.