dad joke

[ dad johk ]


, Informal.
  1. a corny joke or pun suggestive of those made by fathers to their children:

    You don’t have to have kids to tell awful dad jokes.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of dad joke1

First recorded in 1985–90
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Example Sentences

We might even “adult” on a regular basis, comparing car-insurance rates, getting in our daily steps and chuckling at dad jokes.

Finally, a BBQ apron is more than just a dad joke written on a smock.

Resting one arm against the lectern while looking off to the side, he delivers rehearsed dad jokes, pleas for voter turnout and broadsides against his political opponent.

If this sounds like the setup for a good dad joke, that’s because it essentially is.

There were several dad-joke plays on how the casting was actually a “nightmare.”


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More About Dad Joke

What is a dad joke?

The term dad joke is used to refer to a joke that’s intentionally corny—the kind of joke that dads are known to tell their kids (or any random person they encounter). In most cases, the punch lines of dad jokes involve a pun or some form of wordplay.

Where does dad joke come from?

The term dad joke is recorded as early as 1987 in a Pennsylvania newspaper, which noted dad jokes as making kids and wives wince. And, they have been doing so ever since.

In 1998, an internet user, and admitted dad comic, commented about a groan-worthy observation: “My son calls this a “Dad joke”. Seems that only Dads can come up with these.” While it’s true that dad jokes are strongly associated with dads (which is why they’re called dad jokes), the term has come to be used for intentionally corny jokes regardless of who’s telling them.

The term spread in the 2000s, quickly embraced by dads in need of validation—and by content creators seeing some opportunity in their humor. In 2004, Judy Brown edited the book Dad This Joke’s For You: The Best Dad Jokes from the Funniest Comedians. The website launched in 2006. In 2009, a Facebook page, Dad Jokes, started, eventually gaining over 80,000 followers.

The irony, of course, is that all those unfunny dad jokes became beloved.

By the 2010s, dad joke came to signify any corny joke, especially a punny one-liner perhaps associated with grade-schoolers (e.g. Why didn’t the skeleton go to the dance? He had no body to go with).

The popularity of the dad joke coincides with other dad terms, such as dad bod (the slight pudge of a middle-age man)—all perhaps prompted by millennials starting to have families themselves.

How is dad joke used in real life?

There’s a subtle but important difference between a dad joke and a bad joke. They can have much in common, yes, but the dad joke is associated with an out-of-touch but well-meaning and warm older man trying to tease, fool, or downright irritate his family.

Dad jokes, though, have an endearing and nostalgic quality, too. And, a dad joke, as noted, isn’t the exclusive domain of actual fathers.

More examples of dad joke:

“Everyone can appreciate a few classic bad dad jokes, especially with Father’s Day looming this weekend.”
—Peter Terlato, Tech Insider, September, 2015


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.