What word or phrase does your mother always say?


[puhn] /pʌn/
the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.
the word or phrase used in this way.
verb (used without object), punned, punning.
to make puns.
Origin of pun
1655-65; perhaps special use of pun, variant (now dial.) of pound1, i.e., to mistreat (words)
Related forms
punless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for puns
  • His paintings are jammed with layers of puns and pop culture references.
  • Now the words began to flow, although it was etymologically impossible to root out all of the puns.
  • Such visual puns, artfully constructed, appeal to the mind as much as any wordplay.
  • But, in certain instances, the change may produce ambiguity or may be useful only for puns.
  • Alliteration, puns and further word-play were other devices employed to the same end.
  • Pen enough clever puns on lousy cable companies and subpar salad bars and you'll garner a cult following.
  • It helps if you have an appreciation for puns and food humor, but even apart from that the game is quite enjoyable.
  • Bald and on the short side, he is self-deprecating and has a wicked sense of humor and a fondness for bad puns.
  • Here are puns and persiflage, anagrams and homonyms, all fair game for the amateur sleuth.
  • His columns had faulty logic, painful puns and he couldn't get his ego out of the way of any story.
British Dictionary definitions for puns


the use of words or phrases to exploit ambiguities and innuendoes in their meaning, usually for humorous effect; a play on words. An example is: "Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war's alarms: But a cannonball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms." (Thomas Hood)
verb puns, punning, punned
(intransitive) to make puns
Word Origin
C17: possibly from Italian puntiglio point of detail, wordplay; see punctilio


verb puns, punning, punned
(transitive) (Brit) to pack (earth, rubble, etc) by pounding
Derived Forms
punner, noun
Word Origin
C16: dialectal variant of pound1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for puns



1660s (first attested in Dryden), of uncertain origin, perhaps from pundigron, which is perhaps a humorous alteration of Italian puntiglio "equivocation, trivial objection," diminutive of Latin punctum "point." This is pure speculation. The verb also is attested from 1660s. Related: Punned; punning.

Pun was prob. one of the clipped words, such as cit, mob, nob, snob, which came into fashionable slang at or after the Restoration. [OED]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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puns in Culture

pun definition

A humorous substitution of words that are alike in sound but different in meaning (see double-entendre), as in this passage from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll:

“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “nine the next, and so on.”
“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.
“That's the reason they're called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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