Wordy Wednesday: Bunbury

This delightful little word was found on Life Hack, and it represents something that I believe everyone can use.

That word is:


Bunbury is defined as “An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.” (Wordsmith)

Sound familiar? If you’re anything like me, the first thing that comes to mind may be the ever-present but never seen Maris character from the popular show Fraiser. Even though she is never actually in the show, Maris controls a lot of the events that go on in Niles’s life, and he uses her as an excuse to do (or not do) something at least once an episode. This makes her the perfect example of a Bunbury.


While that’s the modern example, the term Bunbury actually dates back to around 1895 when it first appeared in Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. In the play, Algernon is explaining how he invented a man named Bunbury in order to get out of social gatherings. Here is the excerpt from the play:

Algernon: Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow.
Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a
University. They do it so well in the daily papers. What you
really are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying you were a
Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

Jack: What on earth do you mean?

Algernon: You have invented a very useful younger brother called
Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as
you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called
Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country
whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn’t
for Bunbury’s extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn’t be
able to dine with you at Willis’s to-night, for I have been really
engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.” (Full Books)

As you can see, the term Bunbury is just one more thing we can thank Oscar Wilde for! If you’ve never read the full play, check out the link above! It’s really quite funny.

As you can see, using Bunbury in a sentence is pretty straightforward. Some other examples may include:

“I used my first Bunbury when I was thirteen. I told my mother that my friend Jill wanted me over for dinner, when, in fact, I wanted to go to the mall. Jill and I hung out a lot after that.”

“I know very well that you don’t have a sick Aunt Rachel. You think you’re the first person to try and use a Bunbury to get out of a science test?”

“The best Bunbury I’ve ever heard was used by my date. I thought it was going well, but she apparently had other ideas because halfway through dinner, she looked at her phone and says “I’m so sorry, but my boss Jeff just called me into work. I have to go.” Thinking nothing of it, I excused her and paid the tab. Three days later, I learned that she had been unemployed for two years. I never saw her again.”

Have you used the term Bunbury before? Let me know in the comments below!

The photo is from Here.


One thought on “Wordy Wednesday: Bunbury

  1. Very interesting and soon to be useful, but don’t let my imaginary friend, (to be named later), know for he might be offended.


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