broad comedy characterized by boisterous action, as the throwing of pies in actors' faces, mugging, and obvious farcical situations and jokes.
a stick or lath used by harlequins, clowns, etc., as in pantomime, for striking other performers, especially a combination of laths that make a loud, clapping noise without hurting the person struck.


using, or marked by the use of, broad farce and horseplay: a slapstick motion picture.

Origin of slapstick

An Americanism dating back to 1895–1900; slap1 + stick1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for slapstick

Contemporary Examples of slapstick

Historical Examples of slapstick

  • It frequently happens that a comedian will get after a writer with a stuffed club or a slapstick.

    The Fiction Factory

    John Milton Edwards

  • Sloppy sentimentality and slapstick farce ought to bore us frightfully, especially if we have any sense of humor.

  • Her enthusiasm for the slapstick artist provoked him, but at the same time that gay laughter tickled his ears pleasantly.

    The Purple Heights

    Marie Conway Oemler

  • Don Marquis recognizes as well as any one the value of the slapstick as a mirth-provoking instrument.


    Christopher Morley

  • There was a moment when the slapstick comedy grazed red tragedy.

    The Fighting Edge

    William MacLeod Raine

British Dictionary definitions for slapstick



  1. comedy characterized by horseplay and physical action
  2. (as modifier)slapstick humour
a flexible pair of paddles bound together at one end, formerly used in pantomime to strike a blow to a person with a loud clapping sound but without injury
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 slapstick

also slap-stick, originally (1896) a device consisting of two sticks fastened together so as to slap loudly when a clown or actor hits somebody with it, or to make a sound-effect offstage; from slap and stick (n.). As an adjective by 1906. Meaning "farcical physical comedy, horseplay" (1916) is short for slapstick comedy or humor.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper