Meaning of Banal


The etymology of banal leads us to the French language. The term is used as an adjective to describe that which lacks substance, is superficial or is insignificant.

For example: “I don’t understand why you get angry about something so banal…”, “I am already fed up with complex books and movies for intellectuals: I want to dedicate my free time to more banal entertainment”, “After a few minutes of a banal talk, the presidents decided to get fully into the matter.

The banal can be something everyday or little transcendental. Suppose a newspaper reports that one man stabbed another after a “banal argument. This qualifier refers to the fact that the reason for the conflict was inconsequential, although its consequences were serious (a physical attack with a knife).

The idea of banal is also used in opposition to what has depth; that is, to what requires a certain mental effort to understand its meaning or to interpret it. In this context, a literary critic may comment that a book revolves around a “banal theme”, alluding to the little substance of the subject matter it deals with.

In the same way, we can indicate that, on many occasions, this adjective that we are dealing with is used to refer to a person. Thus, it is said that this or that individual is someone banal. What that comes to mean is that he is a human being who does not have deep ideas, who does not value feelings, who always prefers superfluous things, who allows himself to be carried away only by the appearance of things and nothing else.

That comes to suppose that, in the same way, it is indicated that he is only looking for consumerism, that what is most important to him is aesthetics and following fashions, that he spends all his time looking only for his comfort and that he does not hesitate to try to find continually your pleasure.

In that case we can establish that that person who is defined as banal is also identified with the adjectives of frivolous and superficial.

Within the world of science we have to emphasize that the use of the adjective that we are now addressing is also used. Specifically, we talk about what is called banal microorganisms. This is a term that is used to refer to microorganisms that have the peculiarity that they do not cause any type of disease. Of course, they are capable of altering the composition of an element if they act on it. Thus, for example, they can change the composition of any food.

The concept of “banality of evil”, on the other hand, was developed by the philosopher Hannah Arendt after the trial that took place in Israel against the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. For Arendt, Eichmann was a person who did not analyze whether his actions were “bad” or “good”: he did not care about their consequences either. He limited himself to efficiently carrying out the orders dictated by his superiors, with the aim of professional promotion. The “banality of evil” can appear, according to the philosopher, when an individual limits himself to fulfilling his role in a system without thinking about the effects of the acts.