1. Something said or done to evoke laughter or amusement, especially an amusing story with a punch line.
2. A mischievous trick; a prank: played a joke on his roommate.
3. Something that is of ludicrously poor quality: Their delivery service is a joke.
a. Something not to be taken seriously; a triviality: The accident was no joke.
b. An object of amusement or laughter; a laughingstock: His loud tie was the joke of the office.
v. joked, jok·ing, jokes
1. To tell or play jokes; jest.
2. To speak in fun; be facetious: You have to be joking.
To say or write as a joke.
[Latin iocus; see yek- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: joke, witticism, quip, crack, wisecrack, gag
These nouns refer to something that is said or done in order to evoke laughter or amusement. Joke especially denotes an amusing story with a punch line at the end: She told jokes at the party. A witticism is a witty, usually cleverly phrased remark: "He said one should treat heavy things lightly and light things with gravity, which became a handy witticism" (Natalie Dykstra).
A quip is a clever, pointed, often sarcastic remark: He responded to the tough questions with quips. Crack and wisecrack refer less formally to flippant or sarcastic retorts: She made a crack about my driving ability; he was punished for making wisecracks in class. Gag is principally applicable to a broadly comic remark or to comic byplay in a theatrical routine: It was one of the most memorable gags in the history of vaudeville.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.