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verb (used without object)
  1. to leap or skip about in a sprightly manner; prance; frisk; gambol.
  1. a playful leap or skip.
  2. a prank or trick; harebrained escapade.
  3. a frivolous, carefree episode or activity.
  4. Slang. a criminal or illegal act, as a burglary or robbery.
  1. cut a caper. cut(def 84).

Origin of caper1

1585–95; figurative use of Latin caper he-goat (cognate with Old English hæfer, Old Norse hafr, Old Irish caera sheep < a West IE term *kap-(e)ro- for a domesticated smaller animal); for the meaning, cf. dog (v.)
Related formsca·per·er, nounca·per·ing·ly, adverbun·ca·per·ing, adjective


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3. stunt, antic, shenanigans. 4. spree, frolic.


  1. a spiny shrub, Capparis spinosa, of Mediterranean regions, having roundish leaves and solitary white flowers.
  2. its flower bud, which is pickled and used for garnish or seasoning.
Compare caper family.

Origin of caper2

1350–1400; back formation from capers (taken for plural), Middle English caperes < Latin capparis < Greek kápparis
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for caper

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Adams gave a caper, and cry'd out, "It would do; for that he had sixpence himself."

  • Caper sauce, by adding capers; or, as a substitute, chopped gherkin.

    The Skilful Cook

    Mary Harrison

  • If roasted, it should be served with red-currant jelly; if boiled, with caper sauce.

    The Skilful Cook

    Mary Harrison

  • So saying, Hilbert began to caper about the deck in the exuberance of his joy.

  • So saying, Rollo began to caper about with delight, and then ran off to meet his uncle.

British Dictionary definitions for caper


  1. a playful skip or leap
  2. a high-spirited escapade
  3. cut a caper or cut capers
    1. to skip or jump playfully
    2. to act or behave playfully; frolic
  4. slang a crime, esp an organized robbery
  5. Australian informal a job or occupation
  6. Australian informal a person's behaviour
  1. (intr) to leap or dance about in a light-hearted manner
Derived Formscaperer, nouncaperingly, adverb

Word Origin

C16: probably from capriole


  1. a spiny trailing Mediterranean capparidaceous shrub, Capparis spinosa, with edible flower buds
  2. any of various similar plants or their edible partsSee also bean caper, capers

Word Origin

C15: from earlier capers, capres (assumed to be plural), from Latin capparis, from Greek kapparis
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

Word Origin and History for caper


1580s, apparently short for obsolete capriole "to leap, skip," probably from Italian capriolare "jump in the air" (see cab). Related: Capered; capering.


type of prickly Mediterranean bush, also in reference to the plant's edible buds, late 14c., from Latin capparis (source of Italian cappero, French câpre, German Kaper), from Greek kapparis "the caper plant or its fruit," of uncertain origin. Arabic kabbar, Persian kabar are from Greek. Perhaps reborrowed into English 16c. The final -s was mistaken for a plural inflection in English and dropped.


by 1590s, "playful leap or jump," from caper (v.); meaning "prank" is from 1840; that of "crime" is from 1926. To cut capers "dance in a frolicsome way" is from c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper