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Definition and usage

Highfalutin means pompous or pretentious. It’s usually used of pompous or pretentious language, put it can also describe behaviors, bearings, and attitudes. For example, a lofty and bombastic political speech might be called highfalutin, as might a fancily dressed man who walks into a room with an air of superiority.

The word formerly appeared as a noun for very pompous language, but this use is rare in this century.


There are many alternative spellings, including high-falutin, high-falutin’, highfaluting, hifalutin, highfalutin’, and hifalutin’, but these have given way to the now standard form. Other than highfalutin, only hifalutin and highfaluting appear with any regularity.


The word began as U.S. slang in the early 19th century. Its exact origins are mysterious, but everyone seems to agree that it’s probably a playful modification of high-fluting or high-flying. This might not be convincing, but it’s the best theory we have at the moment.


It hardly seems right to watch the Super Bowl while eating the kind of highfalutin fare that excites Michelin-starred chefs. [Wall Street Journal]

Too often, charity writing is littered with the latest buzzwords and highfalutin phrases in the belief that this sounds impressive. [The Guardian]

Fancy-schmancy beautiful people might be hosting their highfalutin shindigs in Dallas. [Fort Worth Star Telegram]