What Does Full of Hot Air Mean?

Full of Hot Air Meaning

Definition: Empty boasting, pretentious talk.

Origin of Full of Hot Air

This idiom originated sometime around the latter half of the 1800s. An early citation of it can be found in Mark Twain’s 1873 Gilded Age:

  • The most airy schemes inflated the hot air of the Capital.

This term is routinely applied to politicians or other people of power.

There are two possible allusions taking place. The first allusion simply refers to the exhaling taking place while pontificating. Since this phrase usually refers to people who are verbose, there is a lot of talking going on. If you are talking nonstop, you are breathing out literal hot air.

Another interpretation is that of a hot air balloon. The fire in the center of the basket, underneath the balloon, heats the air within the balloon itself. This heated air within the balloon expands. The expanded air weighs less than the surrounding air, which allows it to inflate and rise.

Now, think of someone speaking vapidly in the same way. A person talking a lot about something that he or she doesn’t really understand could have an overinflated sense of importance while still talking nonsense.

Examples of Full of Hot Air

hot air definitionIn this example, two friends are discussing a family reunion that one of them must attend.

Cassie: What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Rebecca: My whole family is coming in from out of town.

Cassie: That sounds like a lot of fun!

Rebecca: Unfortunately, it will be more like torture. My family always fights about politics. None of them are really well informed, so they don’t know what they’re talking about. However, that doesn’t stop any of them from trying.

Cassie: I’m sorry to hear that. That sounds stressful.

Rebecca: Yeah. I just try to remind myself that they are just full of hot air, so I should just ignore them.

hot air definitionIn the dialogue below, two men are discussing a computer problem that one of them is having.

Antonio: I wonder if you have any ideas on how to fix my computer. I asked my boss, and he suggested washing it.

Igor: Do you mean he wanted you to clean it up with some antivirus software?

Antonio: No, he meant physically washing it. He talked for a long time about how physical cleanliness can have a great effect on computer performance.

Igor: That’s silly. He’s obviously full of hot air.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about government shutdowns.

  • But perhaps something important happened as well: Maybe, just maybe, more than a few Americans realized that many government officials are full of hot air — and that expansive government bureaucracies aren’t as important as they’d like you to think. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is leaking state secrets in Vatican City.

  • Her accusers call her an ambitious schemer, even a spy. The presiding judge has wondered aloud whether she is “full of hot air.” Vatican prosecutors want her in jail for as many as 15 years, charging that she stole and leaked state secrets. –New York Times

Summary

Full of hot air is an expression that means mistaken yet pompous.