verb (used without object)

to leap or skip about in a sprightly manner; prance; frisk; gambol.


a playful leap or skip.
a prank or trick; harebrained escapade.
a frivolous, carefree episode or activity.
Slang. a criminal or illegal act, as a burglary or robbery.


    cut a caper. cut(def 84).

Origin of caper

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

Synonyms for caper

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




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

Origin of caper

1350–1400; back formation from capers (taken for plural), Middle English caperes < Latin capparis < Greek kápparis Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for capers

Contemporary Examples of capers

  • Mix thoroughly and taste; depending on the saltiness of the anchovy and capers, more salt may be desired.

    The Daily Beast logo
    How Top Chefs Stay Thin

    Rachel Syme

    December 15, 2009

  • I absolutely love the assertiveness of olives and capers, especially when paired with a meaty fish like swordfish.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Fresh Picks

    Donatella Arpaia

    August 11, 2009

Historical Examples of capers

  • He would sit watching Nanny nibbling with her front teeth the capers of the caper sauce, and he would hate her.

    Sinister Street, vol. 1

    Compton Mackenzie

  • The expression of the miner's eyes promised the unfriendliest kind of "capers" if he should ever get an opportunity to cut them.

    The Talking Leaves

    William O. Stoddard

  • "Well, you certainly would astonish the nuns when you began to cut some of your capers," Miss Fanny declared.

    Gabriel Tolliver

    Joel Chandler Harris

  • A little too much oxygen and you start cutting all kinds of capers.


    John Holbrook Vance

  • Boil for an hour and a half, and serve with a sauce bchamel (Art. 83), to which add some chopped parsley or capers.

British Dictionary definitions for capers


pl n

the flower buds of the caper plant, which are pickled and used as a condiment




a playful skip or leap
a high-spirited escapade
cut a caper or cut capers
  1. to skip or jump playfully
  2. to act or behave playfully; frolic
slang a crime, esp an organized robbery
Australian informal a job or occupation
Australian informal a person's behaviour


(intr) to leap or dance about in a light-hearted manner
Derived Formscaperer, nouncaperingly, adverb

Word Origin for caper

C16: probably from capriole




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

Word Origin for caper

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 capers



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.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper