[laf-ing, lah-fing]


that laughs or is given to laughter: a laughing child.
uttering sounds like human laughter, as some birds.
suggesting laughter by brightness, color, sound, etc.: a laughing stream; laughing flowers.
laughable: The increase in crime is no laughing matter.


Origin of laughing

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at laugh, -ing1, -ing2
Related formslaugh·ing·ly, adverbun·laugh·ing, adjective


[laf, lahf]

verb (used without object)

to express mirth, pleasure, derision, or nervousness with an audible, vocal expulsion of air from the lungs that can range from a loud burst of sound to a series of quiet chuckles and is usually accompanied by characteristic facial and bodily movements.
to experience the emotion so expressed: He laughed inwardly at the scene.
to produce a sound resembling human laughter: A coyote laughed in the dark.

verb (used with object)

to drive, put, bring, etc., by or with laughter (often followed by out, away, down, etc.): They laughed him out of town. We laughed away our troubles.
to utter with laughter: He laughed his consent.


the act or sound of laughing; laughter.
an expression of mirth, derision, etc., by laughing.
Informal. something that provokes laughter, amusement, or ridicule: After all the advance publicity, the prizefight turned out to be a laugh.
laughs, Informal. fun; amusement.

Verb Phrases

laugh at,
  1. to make fun of; deride; ridicule: They were laughing at him, not along with him.
  2. to be scornful of; reject: They stopped laughing at the unusual theory when it was found to be predictive.
  3. to find sympathetic amusement in; regard with humor: We can learn to laugh a little at even our most serious foibles.
laugh off, to dismiss as ridiculous, trivial, or hollow: He had received threats but laughed them off as the work of a crank.

Origin of laugh

before 900; Middle English laughen, Old English hlæh(h)an (Anglian); cognate with Dutch, German lachen, Old Norse hlǣja, Gothic hlahjan
Related formsout·laugh, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for laugh

1. chortle, cackle, cachinnate, guffaw, roar; giggle, snicker, snigger, titter. 6. Laugh, chuckle, grin, smile refer to methods of expressing mirth, appreciation of humor, etc. A laugh may be a sudden, voiceless exhalation, but is usually an audible sound, either soft or loud: a hearty laugh. Chuckle suggests a barely audible series of sounds expressing private amusement or satisfaction: a delighted chuckle. A smile is a (usually pleasant) lighting up of the face and an upward curving of the corners of the lips (which may or may not be open); it may express amusement or mere recognition, friendliness, etc.: a courteous smile. A grin, in which the teeth are usually visible, is like an exaggerated smile, less controlled in expressing the feelings: a friendly grin. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for laughing

Contemporary Examples of laughing

Historical Examples of laughing

  • "I've got a pretty good digestion, mother," said Robert, laughing.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • It brought them back, a shamefaced crew, laughing at each other.

  • He saw them laughing, flushed, silhouetted against the green, distant trees.


    William J. Locke

  • Allister, laughing joyously, turned to the other three and repeated the question to them.

  • "By no means, I give you my word of honor," answered the major, laughing.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for laughing



(intr) to express or manifest emotion, esp mirth or amusement, typically by expelling air from the lungs in short bursts to produce an inarticulate voiced noise, with the mouth open
(intr) (esp of certain mammals or birds) to make a noise resembling a laugh
(tr) to utter or express with laughterhe laughed his derision at the play
(tr) to bring or force (someone, esp oneself) into a certain condition by laughterhe laughed himself sick
(intr foll by at) to make fun (of); jeer (at)
(intr foll by over) to read or discuss something with laughter
don't make me laugh informal I don't believe you for a moment
laugh all the way to the bank informal to be unashamedly pleased at making a lot of money
laugh in a person's face to show open contempt or defiance towards a person
laugh like a drain informal to laugh loudly and coarsely
laugh up one's sleeve to laugh or have grounds for amusement, self-satisfaction, etc, secretly
laugh on the other side of one's face to show sudden disappointment or shame after appearing cheerful or confident
be laughing informal to be in a favourable situation


the act or an instance of laughing
a manner of laughter
informal a person or thing that causes laughterthat holiday was a laugh
the last laugh the final success in an argument, situation, etc, after previous defeat
Derived Formslaugher, nounlaughing, noun, adjectivelaughingly, adverb

Word Origin for laugh

Old English læhan, hliehhen; related to Gothic hlahjan, Dutch lachen
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 laughing

mid-14c., verbal noun from laugh (v.). Laughing matter (usually with negative) is from 1560s. Nitrous oxide has been called laughing gas since 1842 (for its exhilarating effects). Davy, experimenting with the gas, discovered these as far back as 1779: "When I took the bag from my mouth, I immediately laughed. The laughter was involuntary, but highly pleasurable, accompanied by a thrill all through me."



1680s, from laugh (v.). Meaning "a cause of laughter" is from 1895; ironic use (e.g. that's a laugh) attested from 1930. Laugh track "canned laughter on a TV program" is from 1961.



late 14c., from Old English (Anglian) hlæhhan, earlier hlihhan, from Proto-Germanic *klakhjanan (cf. Old Norse hlæja, Danish le, Old Frisian hlakkia, Old Saxon hlahhian, Middle Dutch and Dutch lachen, Old High German hlahhan, German lachen, Gothic hlahjan), from PIE *kleg-, of imitative origin (cf. Latin cachinnare "to laugh aloud," Sanskrit kakhati "laughs," Old Church Slavonic chochotati "laugh," Lithuanian klageti "to cackle," Greek kakhazein). Originally with a "hard" -gh- sound, as in Scottish loch; the spelling remained after the pronunciation shifted to "-f."

If I coveted nowe to avenge the injuries that you have done me, I myght laughe in my slyve. [John Daus, "Sleidanes Commentaries," 1560]

Related: Laughed; laughing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with laughing


In addition to the idioms beginning with laugh

  • laugh all the way to the bank
  • laugh and the world laughs with you
  • laugh at
  • laughing matter
  • laugh off
  • laugh one's head off
  • laugh out of court
  • laugh out of the other side of one's mouth
  • laugh up one's sleeve

also see:

  • canned laughter
  • die laughing
  • it's to laugh
  • last laugh
  • no joke (laughing matter)
  • shake with laughter
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.