Definition of pun in English:



  • A joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

    ‘the pigs were a squeal (if you'll forgive the pun)’
    • ‘Alexander Witt who has directed this film is a competent second unit director and delivers what is expected of him - absolutely brain-dead stuff - forgive the obnoxious pun!’
    • ‘A whole whack of puns, one-liners and double entendres get crammed into the 90-minute running time, and most of them fall flatter than a postage stamp.’
    • ‘Our mechanical friend ain't doing too hot - forgive the pun - either.’
    • ‘The name Cindy sounds like a near pun to cinders, which speaks again to the idea of complete destruction for the birth of some new work.’
    • ‘The flaming comet on the cover and the name pun on the fact that Chitti's birth year is sadharana in the Hindu calendar, when Haley's comet was sighted.’
    • ‘Forgive the pun, but this is a spellbinding book.’
    • ‘Mrs Conti doubtless had a lively night. Competitive eating has, excuse the pun, become very big over the last two decades.’
    • ‘Stuart Wenham how about you give us a bit of a sense of how your work in photovoltaic research has plugged into the Olympic Games, excuse the pun?’
    • ‘We can deduce whether a consonant was sounded from the way puns work.’
    • ‘And yet, by his own admission, he had no drive - excuse the pun - nor desire to get into selling cars.’
    • ‘By all reports, the mountain men love mountain women almost as much as winning rugby league games (a cheap pun based on no facts).’
    • ‘Colonic irrigation may be the butt - excuse the pun - of many a joke, but for those who benefit from the treatment it's no laughing matter.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, the simple economics of house building mean that once a house has distinctive details, a sizeable garden and large rooms in a desirable location, the price, forgive the pun, will go through the roof.’
    • ‘A healthy diet is, if you'll forgive the pun, a movable feast.’
    • ‘We are always grateful to those who take the minute or two to keep us, and their public, in the picture - forgive the pun.’
    • ‘Using the curse of the werewolf as a metaphor for puberty, it's a sharp and, forgive the pun, biting take on adolescence.’
    • ‘It's a pun on the fact that Darien called the servants pigs.’
    • ‘Pornography seems to be a like, excuse the pun, a grind.’
    • ‘Paisley should voice his support for the men of the cloth who will bear witness any disarmament and take their word as, excuse the pun, gospel.’
    • ‘You'll forgive the pun, but, Rocco, isn't this just a bit Mickey Mouse for you?’
    play on words, wordplay, double entendre, double meaning, innuendo, witticism, quip
    bon mot, jeu de mots
    paronomasia, equivoque, amphibology, pivot, calembour, carriwitchet, clench, clinch, conundrum, nick, pundigrion, whim, quibble
    View synonyms


  • Make a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word.

    ‘his first puzzle punned on composers, with answers like “Handel with care” and “Haydn go seek”’
    ‘a punning riddle’
    • ‘What is one to do with the oh-so-clever title of the book, which puns on ‘regarding’ as both a visual and cognitive facility?’
    • ‘Some of Mullen's pieces reflect the universal forms of riddles and punning found at the origins of all literatures.’
    • ‘He puns on its image to connote a flower, by delineating its rays in the shape of petals.’
    • ‘Lay brother Julian (the word lay is punned on ad nauseam) is seduced by Miss Alice in grotesque fashion.’
    • ‘There's some sort of joke / pun to be made here using the phrase ‘I'd give my eye teeth ’, but I can't figure out what it is.’
    • ‘Is it possible that in 1687-8 his informant was punning with Joutel?’
    • ‘I'm so bitter and bitchy, I can't even be bothered to pun on that last sentence.’
    • ‘Of course, any respectably Derridean response to that would then pun on the word ‘re-mark’ and launch into a discussion of film, testimony, and writing.’
    • ‘Howard puns shamelessly on ‘member’ and ‘knocked off’ to suggest the sham and bravura behind protocols of cultural authority.’
    • ‘For a while, the evangelical cohort remained fair game: we could pun on Pentecostals, have fun with fundamentalists and chuckle over conservatives.’
    • ‘Gas from a Burner is a poem which puns on the word gas.’
    • ‘There's plenty more punning jokes like that, spouting from the crooked mouth of Harrogate Theatre's dimple-cheeky silly billy, Tim Stedman.’
    • ‘Cecilia's surname Dela-mere puns ingeniously: over the sea, but also over the mere or lake.’
    • ‘When he puns on the word ‘swallow ‘in his Lewinsky song, they rock with laughter.’’
    • ‘Act 3, Scene 1, line 5 The clown puns expertly, then says that words are so easy to manipulate, so easy to use for bad purposes, that he is afraid to use them.’
    • ‘There are some truly stupid sequel titles out there, which are either puns on the word ‘two’ or add some extra element to the original that lets you know it's a sequel.’
    • ‘He could also be relied on to make punning use of the word ‘horn’ in his show titles.’
    • ‘The word ‘sine’ can be punned with the word ‘sign’, or loosely, ‘symbol’.’
    • ‘The Sages of the Talmud put it pithily, punning on the Hebrew word for ‘etched,’ used in reference to the words carved on the Tablets of the Law.’’
    • ‘While the work puns on Minimalist sculpture by Carl Andre, it also serves as an emblem of cleanliness in the age of AIDS.’


Mid 17th century: perhaps an abbreviation of obsolete pundigrion, as a fanciful alteration of punctilio.