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

adj deliberately impassive in manner

deadpan humor”
expressionless, impassive, poker-faced, unexpressive
incommunicative, uncommunicative
not inclined to talk or give information or express opinions

adv without betraying any feeling

“she told the joke deadpan

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.