Dreary and mind-numbing: interesting ways of saying ‘boring’

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by Kate Woodford

We recently looked at different ways of saying ‘interesting’. Sadly, not everything in life is fascinating, absorbing or gripping. Now and then, something that we watch, read or in some other way experience is, well… boring. However, if you read this post, you’ll at least be able to use interesting words and phrases to say that things are boring!

An alternative to ‘boring’ is the word dull:

I found the talk a bit dull, to be honest.

If you want to emphasize that something is very dull, you can use the phrase (as) dull as dishwater/ditchwater:

The leaders’ debate itself was as dull as dishwater.

Another useful alternative to ‘boring’ is the adjective tedious:

I very rarely iron clothes – I find it so tedious.

Moving on now to adjectives with a slight additional meaning, if something is boring and it makes you feel sad or hopeless, you might describe it as dreary:

It was another dreary day in the office.

I’m so bored of these dreary, grey skies.

Something that is boring because it involves the same thing again and again may be described as repetitive or monotonous:

a repetitive task

The work is very monotonous.

(‘Monotonous’ also describes voices and sounds that are boring because they stay the same, never going higher or lower).

Meanwhile, a job or activity that is extremely boring is sometimes described very emphatically as mind-numbing:

the mind-numbing task of data entry

A word that emphasizes that something is boring because there is nothing new or different about it is humdrum:

She longed to escape her humdrum existence.

Something that is rather boring because it’s the same as so many others of the same type is sometimes described as run-of-the-mill:

It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.

They just have run-of-the-mill bar food.

Two adjectives that describe boring food are bland and insipid. Bland or insipid food has very little taste:

The sauce needs a bit of spice – it’s a bit bland.

an insipid, milky drink

These adjectives are also applied more generally to things that have no special qualities or features and are therefore boring:

The rooms are very beige and bland/insipid.

Something that is boring because it lacks colour is sometimes described as drab:

We wore a drab, grey uniform.

A boring song, show, story, etc. that is soon forgotten because it isn’t special in any way is sometimes described as forgettable:

The lyrics are cliched, the melody forgettable.

Finally, a frequently used idiom in this area is watch paint dry. If watching something is very boring, people sometimes say humorously, it’s like watching paint dry or they would rather watch paint dry:

The last time I went to the theatre, it was like watching paint dry.

I’d rather watch paint dry than sit through another episode. 

I hope that nothing in your week is dreary or monotonous!

20 thoughts on “Dreary and mind-numbing: interesting ways of saying ‘boring’

  1. Vero González

    Thanks a lot, Kate! It’s amazing how you manage to write about boredom in such a fascinating way!
    It even reminded me of a film which was like watching paint dry.

  2. Nomadic

    Can you say repetitive and monotonous with the meaning of lacks variety?

    “The food was repetitive, we ate the same dish on every day.”


    Hello there !

    Is there any way I can find the earlier on line version of Cambridge Dict.. New one is ‘No Good’ please , I am afraid. It doesn’t reflect grandeur of Cambridge , what was before !

    Please, pretty, please ! I want the earlier version..



    1. Thanks for your comment! Feedback from you is really important to the Cambridge Dictionary team. Please use the red Feedback button on the Cambridge Dictionary website to be sure your opinion is included. The more details you can give there, the better.

      We updated the website with a modern design to give you faster results and make it easier to use on desktop and mobile, and to fix issues with menus and word lists that users told us were problems on the old site. You should be able to see more content on the first page of your results now; there’s a menu bar at the bottom you can use to navigate all the content on the page with; and the word lists should work better. It may take a little time to get used to the changes, but we definitely want your feedback to improve what isn’t working as well for you in the new version.

  4. Maryem Salama

    When the state is the state neither less nor more, we usually say: “nothing new under the Sun or above the Earth.” We often hear it from white- collar relaxing in their offices.
    For me, I am totally into this air. I hope the wind of change hits me into the bones, sooner..

  5. Nabil khaled

    It was very useful article. You made me thought that I’ll be able to speak English as my first language if I continue reading articles like this one. Thank you. I’m really so grateful.

  6. Wonderful explanation Kate. Nice to read and easy to remember. Please keep on writing these types of words which we use in daily life. I love to learn new words and applying it aptly. Awaiting those mind blowing gems.

  7. Shankar Saran

    Hello, Kate,
    I am very impressed with the loads of info on English language given here. If such a facility had been a available 50 yrs. back, I would have become another Shakespeare!

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