Witticism describes something funny that someone says, like a pun or little joke. You may have heard that it is good to start off a speech with witticism because if you make the audience laugh, it'll help them — and you — relax.

English playwright and poet John Dryden coined the word witticism in the seventeenth century, combining the words witty and criticism to come up with a word to describe a clever quip that has a hint of sharpness or irony. A witticism is typically a one-liner that humorously sums up the current situation — with a little bit of attitude thrown in.

Definitions of witticism

n a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter

humor, humour, wit, wittiness
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jeu d'esprit
a witty comment or writing
bon mot, mot
a clever remark
esprit de l'escalier
a witty remark that occurs to you too late
bite, pungency
wit having a sharp and caustic quality
caustic remark, irony, sarcasm, satire
witty language used to convey insults or scorn
adroitness and cleverness in reply
gag, jape, jest, joke, laugh
a humorous anecdote or remark intended to provoke laughter
caricature, imitation, impersonation
a representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect
cartoon, sketch
a humorous or satirical drawing published in a newspaper or magazine
fun, play, sport
verbal wit or mockery (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously)
ribald humor
an exceedingly good witticism that surpasses all that have gone before
a satirical imitation of heroic verse
backchat, banter, give-and-take, raillery
light teasing repartee
belly laugh, howler, riot, scream, sidesplitter, thigh-slapper, wow
a joke that seems extremely funny
blue joke, blue story, dirty joke, dirty story
an indelicate joke
ethnic joke
a joke at the expense of some ethnic group
funny, funny remark, funny story, good story
an account of an amusing incident (usually with a punch line)
a joke that is appreciated only by members of some particular group of people
a one-line joke
shaggy dog story
a long rambling joke whose humor derives from its pointlessness
sick joke
a joke in bad taste
sight gag, visual joke
a joke whose effect is achieved by visual means rather than by speech (as in a movie)
burlesque, charade, lampoon, mockery, parody, pasquinade, put-on, sendup, spoof, takeoff, travesty
a composition that imitates or misrepresents somebody's style, usually in a humorous way
jocosity, jocularity
fun characterized by humor
waggery, waggishness
waggish behavior
clowning, comedy, drollery, funniness
a comic incident or series of incidents
paronomasia, pun, punning, wordplay
a humorous play on words
cartoon strip, comic strip, funnies, strip
a sequence of drawings telling a story in a newspaper or comic book
Type of:
content, message, subject matter, substance
what a communication that is about something is about

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