[ puhn ]
See synonyms for: punpunnedpunningpuns on Thesaurus.com

  1. 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.

  2. the word or phrase used in this way.

verb (used without object),punned, pun·ning.
  1. to make puns.

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Origin of pun

First recorded in 1655–65; perhaps special use of pun, variant (now dialectal) of pound1, in the sense “to mistreat (words)”

Other words from pun

  • punless, adjective

Words Nearby pun

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use pun in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pun (1 of 2)


/ (pʌn) /

  1. 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)

verbpuns, punning or punned
  1. (intr) to make puns

Origin of pun

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

British Dictionary definitions for pun (2 of 2)


/ (pʌn) /

verbpuns, punning or punned
  1. (tr) British to pack (earth, rubble, etc) by pounding

Origin of pun

C16: dialectal variant of pound 1

Derived forms of pun

  • punner, noun

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

Cultural 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.