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Claptrap is a mass noun for words or concepts which are idiotic or ridiculous. It has no plural form. The term may also be used as an adjective. Claptrap is always spelled as one word and with no hyphen.

The term originated in the late 1700’s as a way to describe things which tried to gain applause, but which were just all fluff. Therefore they were traps for clapping.

Claptrappopularity peaked around the 1930’s, though it is still somewhat used.

Since claptrap is always used referring to another idea or verbage, we have included slightly longer examples than normal so you can get the context of its use.


It is equally obvious why politicians in the West want to agree with them, to draw a very clear distinction between murderous fanatics and the religion of law-abiding millions. But it is a bit like saying the Inquisition or those Protestants who burnt Catholics at the stake (or vice versa) were not Christian. For theologians, this may make sense. “Would Jesus want this?” might be their question. But for the rest of us it is claptrap – these killers were not motivated by Buddhism, or Marxism or vegetarianism, but by their own interpretation of Christianity. [BBC]

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by my mother’s beauty books, especially Frankly Feminine, which was published in 1965. Among its advice was to keep your make-up on 24-7 so you never had to subject your man to a view of your natural face. Pretty Honest, the new beauty book by Sali Hughes of theGuardian, is a million miles from such outdated claptrap. [The Irish Times]