the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.
the word or phrase used in this way.

verb (used without object), punned, pun·ning.

to make puns.

Origin of pun

1655–65; perhaps special use of pun, variant (now dial.) of pound1, i.e., to mistreat (words)
Related formspun·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pun

Contemporary Examples of pun

Historical Examples of pun

  • He would have to remember the pun to tell Alec Diger later, if there was a later.

    The Velvet Glove

    Harry Harrison

  • I explained that he probably intended a pun upon his name, which was Coleman.

    Frank Fairlegh

    Frank E. Smedley

  • This is a pun, which, profound in itself, you must not expect to enjoy at first reading.

  • "He's a bad pill," said another, repeating a pun already old.

  • Daniel Purcell, the famous punster, was desired to make a pun extempore.

    The Jest Book

    Mark Lemon

British Dictionary definitions for pun




the use of words or phrases to exploit ambiguities and innuendoes in their meaning, usually for humorous effect; a play on words. An example is: "Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war's alarms: But a cannonball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms." (Thomas Hood)

verb puns, punning or punned

(intr) to make puns

Word Origin for pun

C17: possibly from Italian puntiglio point of detail, wordplay; see punctilio



verb puns, punning or punned

(tr) British to pack (earth, rubble, etc) by pounding
Derived Formspunner, noun

Word Origin for pun

C16: dialectal variant of pound 1
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 pun

1660s (first attested in Dryden), of uncertain origin, perhaps from pundigron, which is perhaps a humorous alteration of Italian puntiglio "equivocation, trivial objection," diminutive of Latin punctum "point." This is pure speculation. The verb also is attested from 1660s. Related: Punned; punning.

Pun was prob. one of the clipped words, such as cit, mob, nob, snob, which came into fashionable slang at or after the Restoration. [OED]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for pun


A humorous substitution of words that are alike in sound but different in meaning (see double-entendre), as in this passage from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll:

“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “nine the next, and so on.”
“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.
“That's the reason they're called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.