deadpan

Use the word deadpan to describe someone who uses no expression when speaking, such as the deadpan way some comedians deliver even their funniest jokes — which can make them even funnier.

Deadpan dates to 1928, when pan was slang for "face." So if you seem to have a "dead face" as you say something, it means your face looks very blank — no energy or animation. Deadpan is associated with sarcasm, and like sarcasm, if you use it for comic effect, there's a risk your audience won't pick up on it. Nevertheless, deadpan humor can be funny and popular — witness the success of deadpan humor in the sitcom Seinfeld.

Definitions of deadpan
  1. adjective
    deliberately impassive in manner
    deadpan humor”
    synonyms: expressionless, impassive, poker-faced, unexpressive
    incommunicative, uncommunicative
    not inclined to talk or give information or express opinions
  2. verb
    speak in a deliberately impassive or serious manner
    see moresee less
    type of:
    mouth, speak, talk, utter, verbalise, verbalize
    express in speech
  3. adverb
    without betraying any feeling
    “she told the joke deadpan
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week