Sickly Sweet Treats: Sappy and Insincere Valentine Words

Regardless of your romantic status this Valentine’s Day, we’ve got a word list for you! This one's for those who find the holiday’s saccharine sweetness nauseating. We've also got one for the under-attached or anyone who's ever been burned by love: Dissed List: Breakup Words for Valentine's Day. And if you just so happen to be truly, madly, deeply in love, check out: Love Letter Words for Valentine's Day.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. bathetic
    effusively or insincerely emotional
    Taken together, her tribulations have the makings of bathetic melodrama.New York Times (Jul 14, 2011)
  2. cloying
    overly sweet
    It manages to be so emotionally poignant and real without ever sinking into cloying or sappy.Forbes (Jun 21, 2015)
    As cloy evolved, one of its meanings involved being overfed with sweet things, which inspired the adjective cloying. In The Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz describes recent movie A Dog’s Purpose as “…often cloying, absurdly melodramatic, and the premise exists largely as a tear-manufacturing device.” Emotional manipulation, anyone?
  3. corny
    dull and tiresome but with pretensions of significance
    The way it all went down was too corny, too implausible for even Hollywood to believe.Washington Times (Nov 3, 2016)
  4. maudlin
    effusively or insincerely emotional
    The character’s pluck and mischief are nearly drowned in a bog of maudlin mommy love, and his vows of vengeance dampen the spirit of fun.New York Times (Oct 8, 2015)
  5. mawkish
    effusively or insincerely emotional
    But for me, the florid sentimentality of the song is mawkish.Seattle Times (Oct 14, 2016)
    Some words take a long journey from their original sense—but not mawkish. This word originally referred to things that make you, as George Carlin put it, engage in an involuntary protein spill. Fittingly, this word is related to maggoty, surely one of the barfiest words in the history of this vomitorium of a world. From there, mawkish broadened to subjects that were less horrifying but still disgusting. On Valentine’s Day, there’s mawkishness aplenty.
  6. mushy
    having the consistency of a soft or soggy mass
    Mushy talk ensued, and Ben carried his fiancee over the threshold of the helicopter.Los Angeles Times (Mar 15, 2016)
  7. saccharine
    overly sweet
    What should be sweet is saccharine, what might be profound seems trite.New York Times (Mar 12, 2015)
    This word for an artificial sweetener is pretty much perfect for artificial sentiment.
  8. sappy
    ludicrous, foolish
    A lot of the advice on being happier is sappy.Time (Jun 2, 2016)
  9. sentimental
    marked by tender, romantic, or nostalgic emotion
    On social media I dubbed it the Treacle Museum — a sentimental vanity gallery pumped up on soppy emotional steroids.Los Angeles Times (Jan 20, 2017)
  10. syrupy
    overly sweet
    An unabashedly syrupy tween-pop anthem about infatuation at first sight, the song was so sticky and ubiquitous that it transcended the term “hit.”The New Yorker (Sep 24, 2015)
    Syrupy, since the 1800s, has been a word for language that’s too sweet and sticky. A syrupy love poem, if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, could inspire an obsessive need to wash your hands of such drippy drivel.
  11. treacly
    overly sweet
    “I don’t want anything to appear treacly in print, but I honestly fell in love with her the day I met her,” he said.New York Times (Jun 10, 2016)
    Treacle was originally a type of medicine, back in the 1300s when Walgreens was just a guy in an alley named Walter Green. By the 1600s, the term evolved, referring to sweet, syrupy concoctions such as molasses, which made the figurative meaning of “sentimental twaddle or flattery” a natural.
  12. trite
    repeated too often; overfamiliar through overuse
    And ultimately, the “get happy” moral of the story, while trite compared to something like “Inside Out,” is sufficiently sweet enough for its audience.Washington Times (Nov 2, 2016)
  13. viscid
    having the sticky properties of an adhesive
    This fight between the old and the new is at the viscid, romantic heart of Chazelle’s gooey, seductive film.Salon (Dec 14, 2016)
    This is a word for stickiness, whether literal or figurative.
  14. drippy
    effusively or insincerely emotional
    If its payoff is predictably drippy, the movie quickly regains its comic mojo with a credit-sequence parody of a ’90s Hollywood romance.Washington Post
  15. contrived
    showing effects of planning or manipulation
    Despite the noise, some business owners still see the value in celebrating a contrived holiday.Wall Street Journal (Jul 5, 2016)
Created on February 7, 2017 (updated February 12, 2019)

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