Ready To Make Small Talk? Here Are 10 Different Kinds To Try!

If the term small talk sends a pang of dread shooting through your chest, you aren’t alone. That very word may have you picturing yourself stranded with a group of strangers, desperately trying to think of questions to ask while everyone stares at you awkwardly. Luckily, small talk doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to improve your small talk skills. It also helps to remember that different situations call for different kinds of small talk. Small talk can be used to connect with old friends, make new ones, banter with potential dates, and network with clients and connections. Here’s a guide to the many different kinds of small talk and some fun facts about each type. Think of this as a cheat sheet you can carry with you into your next great conversation!


If you’ve ever made “light conversation, casual talk, or gossip” with someone, then you’ve engaged in chitchat. It’s a form of small talk that might occur between acquaintances and usually doesn’t delve into heavy or serious topics. People have been chitchatting for a lot longer than you might think. The word is a duplicate form of chat that’s been in use in English since the early 1700s.

table talk

Table talk is called that because, well, it happens most often at a table. Defined as “informal conversation at meals,” table talk is what you might expect at a dinner party or an after-work happy hour meetup. Sometimes it can take a turn for the serious (see: awkward family dinners during Thanksgiving), but topics are usually lighthearted and meant to keep guests engaged. The phrase table talk has been in use since the mid-1500s.

exchanging pleasantries

If you don’t know someone well, the first step to talking with them is exchanging pleasantries. A pleasantry is “a courteous social remark used to initiate or facilitate a conversation,” such as complimenting the decor at a new acquaintance’s house or commenting on the weather as you and a new neighbor both check your mailboxes. The word pleasantry has been in use in English since the 1600s.

shooting the breeze

To shoot the breeze means “to talk idly, chat.” The word breeze sometimes means “an easy task; something done or carried on without difficulty.” In this sense, you can think of shooting the breeze as engaging in easy conversation, like the ones had when lounging around at a party or other relaxed gathering. This phrase may have originated as a variant of shooting the bull, in which bull means “empty talk or lies.” Shooting the breeze has been in use in English since at least 1919.

What’s the difference between breezy, windy, and blustery?


Causerie sounds like it might refer to something formal or serious, but it actually means “an informal talk or chat.” You might engage in a causerie while gathered around the buffet table or mingling with other attendees at a conference. First recorded in the 1820s, causerie comes from the French causer, meaning “to chat.”


If you wish to “chat idly or gossip” with an acquaintance, you might pop by for a chinwagChinwag is a 19th-century word that is likely borrowed from British English, though the exact origins of the phrase are unknown. Chinwag likely refers to the physical act of talking, as in the way a chin wags, or “moves from side to side or up and down” when one speaks. Chinwagging is something you can do with a friend or with people you don’t know well.


Schmoozing is the kind of small talk that often happens when people are trying to make connections. It means “idle conversation; chatter,” but it’s often used to describe situations in which that idle chatter is intended to help you get “in” with a certain person or group. You might schmooze with the boss at the holiday party or schmooze with the other PTA parents you’re trying to get to know. The word schmooze is an Americanism, but it has roots in Yiddish. The verb schmues, from the Hebrew shəmūʿōth, means “reports, gossip.”


The kind of frivolous, easy small talk you might make at a party can also be called persiflage. This word, meaning “light, bantering talk or writing,” comes from the French persifler, meaning “to banter” or “to tease.” Persiflage, then, describes small talk that is fun. It might include jokes, witticisms, and clever repartee. Who knows? You might even end up with a new friend. The word persiflage was first recorded in English in the 1750s.


Banter is “an exchange of light, playful, teasing remarks; good-natured raillery.” It’s what can happen when small talk is going well. Often, you might engage in banter with a new acquaintance with whom you get along particularly well. Banter might also be the preferred type of small talk on a first date or when you’re really connecting with someone new on a dating app. The origin of the word banter is unknown, but English speakers have been using it since at least the 1660s.


Gossip technically counts as a form of small talk, but proceed with caution: depending on the subject of the gossip, this one could land you in hot water. Gossip is defined as “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others,” and the concept has been around for a very long time. First recorded before 1050, gossip can be traced to the Old English godsibb, a term that initially meant “godparent,” but later came to be applied to familiar friends, especially a woman’s female friends. This is likely due to the outdated belief that women were more fond of “light talk” or gossip.

When you’re done chatting, take the quiz!

All this chinwagging got you interested in more? You can always shoot the breeze with our friendly word list on these synonyms. If you want to take the conversation further, you can always head straight to our quiz. Be sure to bring up how well you do next time you’re out schmoozing.

If your small talk didn't go quite as planned, you might call it a disaster, or one of these synonyms.

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