A pun (or paronomasia) is a phrase that deliberately exploits confusion between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect.

A pun may also cause confusion between two senses of the same written or spoken word, due to homophony, homography, homonymy, polysemy, or metaphorical usage. Walter Redfern has said: "To pun is to treat homonyms as synonyms". ["Puns", Blackwell, London, 1984] Another definition has said that a pun is a word that has two sources used simultaneously (example origin). For example, in the phrase, "There is nothing punny about bad puns", the pun takes place in the deliberate confusion of the implied word "funny" by the substitution of the word "punny", a heterophone of "funny". By definition, puns must be deliberate; an involuntary substitution of similar words is called a malapropism.

Puns are a form of word play, and can occur in all natural languages.


The word "pun" itself is thought to be originally a contraction of the (now archaic) "pundigrion". This Latin term is thought to have originated from "punctilious", which itself derived from the Italian "puntiglio" (originally meaning "a fine point"), diminutive of "punto", "point", from the Latin "punctus", past participle of "pungere", "to prick." These etymological sources are reported in the "Oxford English Dictionary", which labels them "conjecture."


Puns can be classified in various ways:

*A perfect pun exploits word pairs that sound exactly alike (perfect homophones), or two senses of the same word::*"Being in politics is just like playing golf: you are trapped in one bad "lie" after another.":(Pun on the two meanings of "lie" - "a deliberate untruth"/"the position in which something rests").:If the two words sound similar, but not identical, the pun is said to be imperfect.: "Why do we still have a troop presence in Germany? Answer: To keep the Slovaks in Czech.":(This pun deliberately confuses the words Check and Czech for a rhetorical and a comedic effect.)

*A homographic pun exploits different words (or word meanings) which are spelled the same way, whether they have the same sound or not::*"Q: What instrument do fish like to play? A: A "bass" guitar.":(Pun on the identical spelling of IPA|/beɪs/ (low frequency), and IPA|/bæs/ (a kind of fish)).:Homographic puns using words with same spelling but different pronunciations, like this example, are said to be heteronymic.

Homographic puns are sometimes compared to the stylistic device antanaclasis, and homophonic puns to polyptoton; but these concepts are not identical.

*A compound pun is a sentence that contains two or more puns: :*"A man bought a cattle ranch for his sons and named it the 'Focus Ranch' because it was "where the sons raise meat"." [Charles Hockett, Cornell linguist] :(Pun on "where the sun's rays meet").:*Sign in a golf-cart shop: "When drinking, don't "drive". Don't even "putt".":(Puns on "driving" and "putting" a golf ball, vs. "driving" a car or "putting" around in a golf cart.):*Punch line of a knock knock joke: Q: "Eskimo Christians Italian who?" A: "Eskimo Christians Italian no lies".":(Pun on the stock phrase "Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies".)

*An extended pun or pun sequence is a long utterance that contains multiple puns with a common theme::*"A fight broke out in a kitchen. "Egged" on by the waiters, two cooks "peppered" each other with punches. One man, a "greasy" foie gras specialist, "duck"ed the first blows, but his "goose was cooked" when the other "cold-cock"ed him. The man who "beet" him, a "weedy" salad expert with big "cauliflower ears", tried to flee the scene, but was "corn"ered in the "maize" of tables by a "husky" off-duty "cob". He was charged with "a salt" and "butter"y. He claims to look forward to the "suit", as he's always wanted to be a "sous-chef.":(Egged: to throw eggs at, to cheer-on. Peppered: to add pepper to, to punch. Duck: a bird, to bend down. Beet (the vegetable) a play on beat (to win). Weedy: having a lot of vegetables, being skinny. Maize: play on maze. A salt: play on assault. Suit: lawsuit, clothes. Sous-chef: an assistant chef, playing on the verb sue.)::*"I "moss" say I'm taking a "lichen" to that "fun-gi", even though his jokes are in "spore" taste. "Algae" the first to say that they "mushroom" out of control.":(Moss, play on must. Lichen, play on liking. Fungi, play on fun guy. Spore, play on poor. Algae, play on I'll be. Mushroom, play on double meaning: the food, and to grow rapidly.)


Comedy and jokes

Puns are a common source of humor in jokes and comedy shows. They are often used in the punchline of a joke, where they typically give a humorous meaning to a rather perplexing story. These are also known as feghoots. The following example comes from the movie "" (though the punchline is at least five decadesFact|date=December 2007 older)::Captain Aubrey: "Do you see those two weevils, Doctor?...Which would you choose?":Dr. Maturin: "Neither. There's not a scrap of difference between them. They're the same species of "Curculio".":Captain Aubrey: "If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a choice. If there were no other option.":Dr. Maturin: "Well, then, if you're going to push me. I would choose the right-hand weevil. It has significant advantage in both length and breadth.":Captain Aubrey: "There, I have you!...Do you not know that in the Service, one must always choose the lesser of two weevils?"The last line uses a pun on the stock phrase "the lesser of two evils".

Puns are particularly admired in BritainFact|date=March 2008, and form a core element of the British cult comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and in times past My Word. The late Richard Whiteley was famed for his endearingly clumsy use of puns as host of the UK words and numbers game show "Countdown". British stand up comedian Tim Vine's act is characterised by rapid delivery of unrelated pun-based jokes. British comedian Dance Drier is also known for his extensive and often many layered puns woven into his stories. In his own words, "A pun is its own reword."

Gag names based on puns (such as calling a character who is always almost late "Justin Thyme") can be found in Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, "The Eyre Affair", "Asterix", Hamlet, "The Simpsons", the Carmen Sandiego computer games, and many works of Spider Robinson, including the "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon" series.

Formats for punning

There are numerous pun formats:

*Bilingual pun
*Knock-knock joke
*Shaggy dog story
*Tom Swifty
*Transpositional pun


The term "punning" is sometimes used to describe either unintentional muddled thinking or intentional deception where the same word (such as a homographic pun) is used with two subtly different meanings. For example, in statistics the word "significant" is usually assumed to be a shortened form of "statistically significant", with the associated precisely defined meaning. It is punning to use "significant" with the meaning "of practical significance" in contexts where "statistically significant" would be plausible interpretation.

Computer science

A programming technique that subverts or circumvents the type system of a programming language in order to achieve an effect that would be difficult or impossible to achieve within the bounds of the formal language is commonly known as "type punning" in computer science.

Punny quotations

* "A pun is a shift of wit. A fart is a whift of shit."
* "A pun is its own reword." — Dance Drier, British comedian
* "A pun is the lowest form of humor, unless you thought of it yourself." — Doug Larson
* "A pun is the shortest distance between two straight lines." — original source unknown
* "As different as York from Leeds" — James Joyce in Finnegans Wake, a play on "As different as chalk from cheese".
* "Blunt and I made atrocious puns. I believe, indeed, that Miss Blunt herself made a little punkin, as I called it" —Henry James
* "Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted." — Fred Allen
* "Heralds don't pun; they cant." SCA heralds' expression
* "If puns are the lowest form of wit, are buns the lowest form of wheat?" — Piers Anthony, Author
* "Immanuel doesn't pun; he Kant." — Oscar Wilde
* "In the beginning was the pun." — Samuel Beckett, "Murphy"
* "Paris of Troy was so named because his mother had a considerable amount of gaul and married a Frenchman." — Original Source Unknown.
* "Pun" ("n".): the lowest form of humour" —Samuel Johnson, lexicographer
* "Puns are the last refuge of the witless." —another way of stating the above
* "The goodness of the true pun is in the direct ratio of its intolerability." — Edgar Allan Poe, "Marginalia", 1849
* "'The man', says Johnson, 'that would make / A pun, would pick a pocket!'" ." — Lewis Carroll, "Phantasmagoria", 1869
* "The pun is mightier than the word." — original source unknown, a play on "A pen is mightier than a sword".
* "95% words in the English language can be incorporated into word-play (while the other 5% can be ex-pun-ged as im-pun-etrable)" — Wayne Redhart (spoof top 500 reviewer on amazon.co.uk)
* "You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass." —Douglas Adams
* Baloo (a bear): "look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities....". —"The Jungle Book" (1967 film)
* Explorer: Then one afternoon I bagged six tigers. Six of the biggest tigers I ever saw. Hostess: You captured six tigers? Explorer: I bagged them. I bagged them and bagged them to go away, but they hung around all afternoon. They were the most persistent tigers I ever saw. —Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont, Animal Crackers
* Max: I like your nurse's uniform, guy.
Peter: Actually these are O.R. scrubs.
Max: Oh, are they? —"Rushmore"
* Scholar 1 [to scholar 2] ;"Have you read Marx?"
Scholar 2;" Indeed I have my good sir, I believe they are from these cane chairs."

ee also

*dajare (puns in Japanese)
*Double entendre
*Forster's Syndrome
*Letter game



*cite journal
first = Christian F.
last = Hempelmann
authorlink = Christian F. Hempelmann
year = 2004
month = September
title = Script opposition and logical mechanism in punning
journal = HUMOR - Journal of the International Association for Humor Studies
volume = 17
issue = 4
pages = 381–392
doi = 10.1515/humr.2004.17.4.381
(Access to the full text may be restricted.)


External links

* [http://www.alphadictionary.com/fun/pun.html alphaDictionary's Punny Pages]
* [http://www.multilingualwebmaster.com/library/puns_translation.html On the relative (un)translatability of puns]
* [http://www.pungents.com An exhaustive pun site]
* [http://www.punpunpun.com The International Save the Pun Foundation]
* [http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~wuensch/pun_of_the_week.html Stefan's Bad Pun Page]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pun — pȕn prid. <odr. ī> DEFINICIJA 1. a. koji nema praznine; ispunjen, napunjen [puna posuda; puna vreća] b. koji je dokraja zaposjednut čime [grad pun ljudi] 2. a. koji sadrži u sebi mnogo čega, koji obiluje [pun lišća] b. koji je obuzet,… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Pun — Pun, v. t. [See {Pound} to beat.] To pound. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] He would pun thee into shivers with his fist. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pun — Pun, n. [Cf. {Pun} to pound, {Pound} to beat.] A play on words which have the same sound but different meanings; an expression in which two different applications of a word present an odd or ludicrous idea; a kind of quibble or equivocation.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pun — Pun, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Punned}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Punning}.] To make puns, or a pun; to use a word in a double sense, especially when the contrast of ideas is ludicrous; to play upon words; to quibble. Dryden. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pun — Pun, v. t. To persuade or affect by a pun. Addison. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pun — pun, ni pun expr. nada. ❙ «¡Ni pun hijito! De técnica narrativa no tienes ni puta idea.» Álvaro de Laiglesia, Hijos de Pu. ❙ «¿Se sabe algo nuevo de Gregorio Liñán? Ni pum.» Pedro Casals, Disparando cocaína …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

  • punđa — púnđa ž DEFINICIJA ženska frizura od podignute, začešljane i pričvršćene kose [nositi punđu; imati punđu] ETIMOLOGIJA mađ. punty …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • pun — [pun] n. [17th c. clipped form < ? It puntiglio, fine point, hence verbal quibble: see PUNCTILIO] the use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike, in such a way as to juxtapose, connect, or bring out two or more of the… …   English World dictionary

  • pun — Punning, ‘the humorous use of words to suggest different meanings’, has been a feature of language at least since the time of Aristotle, who approved of them in some kinds of writing. Some famous historical examples include the description by… …   Modern English usage

  • pun — ► NOUN ▪ a joke exploiting the different meanings of a word or the fact that there are words of the same sound and different meanings. ► VERB (punned, punning) ▪ make a pun. DERIVATIVES punster noun. ORIGIN perhaps an abbreviation of obsolete… …   English terms dictionary

  • pun|ka — pun|kah or pun|ka «PUHNG kuh», noun. (in India and Indonesia) a fan, especially a large swinging fan hung from the ceiling and kept in motion by a servant or by machinery: »The courtroom was sombre…High up…the punkahs were swaying short to and… …   Useful english dictionary

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