what does "faint applause" mean in this passage?

The Bank turned 50 in 1995 to faint applause. Public protests against the Bretton Woods Institutions at the World Bank–International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings in Madrid dampened the celebratory mood. The protesters’ slogan, “50 years is enough,” forced the Bank’s management to reappraise the Bank’s development policies and to intensify its efforts to convince civil society of the Bank’s relevance. What does the whole sentence mean therefore?

Development Economics through the Decades: A Critical Look at 30 Years of the World Development Report, Shahid Yusuf, page 34

2 Answers 2


The definition of faint here is this one:

lacking strength or vigor : performed, offered, or accomplished weakly or languidly

Applause means

1: marked commendation : acclaim
2: approval publicly expressed (as by clapping the hands)

So faint applause is "weak acclaim". The writer is using the phrase somewhat metaphorically; it doesn't mean that there was literally faint clapping, only that when the Bank turned 50, the public celebration was very weak and half-hearted.


In this context, faint means not strong or clear or slight. The suggestion is that people might be expected to offer a metaphorical round of applause to the bank on their anniversary, so faint applause suggests that the general public were not as impressed with the anniversary as might be hoped.

The subsequent text gives the impression that the public (or at least the protesters) were actually quite hostile.


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