Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Pretentious, insincere, or empty language: "I hate ... that air/Of claptrap, which your recent poets prize” ( Byron).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Contrived for the purpose of making a show, or gaining applause; deceptive; unreal.
  • n. A contrivance for clapping in theaters.
  • n. A trick or device to gain applause, especially pretentious but empty rhetoric; humbug.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A contrivance for clapping in theaters.
  • n. Figuratively, an artifice or device to elicit applause or gain popularity; deceptive show or pretense.
  • Designing or designed merely to win approval or catch applause.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. pompous or pretentious talk or writing

Etymologies

Obsolete claptrap, a theatrical trick to win applause : clap1 + trap1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Theater slang, c. 1730, from clap and trap, referring to theatrical techniques or gags used to incite applause. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • As a publisher once told H. L. Mencken, “there are four kinds of books that never, under any circumstances, lose money in the United States—first, detective stories, secondly, novels in which the heroine is forcibly debauched by the hero; thirdly, volumes on spiritualism, occultism, and other claptrap, and fourthly, books on Lincoln.�?
    —via 3 Quarks Daily

    My god! The plot of my bestseller drops into my lap like a ripe plum. The ghost of Lincoln debauches Nancy Drew.

    August 14, 2009

  • It's a trap.

    October 7, 2008

  • Citation on leucotomise.

    September 28, 2008

  • Nonsense, lies, exaggeration, bs 1950's slang.

    July 16, 2008

  • also spelled clap-trap

    February 15, 2007