(redirected from punningly)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.


use of words, usually humorous, based on (a) the several meanings of one word, (b) a similarity of meaning between words that are pronounced the same, or (c) the difference in meanings between two words pronounced the same and spelled somewhat similarly, e.g., Thomas Hood's "They went and told the sexton and the sexton tolled the bell." Puns have also been used seriously, as in the Bible, Mat. 16.18: "Thou art Peter [Gr. Petros], and upon this rock [Gr. petra] I will build my church."



a stylistic turn of phrase or the epigram of a particular author based on the humorous use of the identical sound of words that have different meanings, of words or phrases that have similar sounds, or of different meanings of the same word or phrase. Some of the forms of puns are as follows:

(1)Juxtaposition of homonyms:

OPTIMISTENKO: … U vas es’ zakliuchenie? (Are you finished?; Have you reached a finding?)

WOMAN PETITIONER: Net, batiushka, nel’zia emu zakliuchenie davat’… Mozhno, govoriat, ego na nedeliu zakliuchi’, a ia chego, batiushka, kusha’-to budu? (No, sir, he can’t be confined…. If he’s confined for a week, say, what will I eat meanwhile?)

V. V. Mayakovsky, The Bathhouse

[The pun is on the two meanings of the noun zakliuchenie and the verb zakliuchit’, which may mean “finding” and “to find” or “imprisonment” and “to imprison,” respectively.]

(2)Sound similarity of words in a narrow context:

Na vsiakogo zaveduiushchego est’ svoi zaviduiushschii. (Every director has one who envies him.)

E. Krotkii, Unwritten Fragments

[The similarity of the words zaveduiushchii, “director,” and zaviduiushchii, “one who envies,” is used.]

(3)Contrast of homophones:

Priiatno polaska’ ditia ili sobaku, no vsego neobkhodimee poloskar’ rot. (It’s nice to pet a child or dog, but to wet one’s whistle is even more important.)

Koz’ma Prutkov, Thoughts and Aphorisms

[The words polaskat’, “to pet” or “to caress,” and poloskat’, “to rinse” or “to wet one’s whistle,” have virtually identical pronunciation.]

(4)Juxtaposition of homographs:

la priekhal v Moskvu, plachú i plachú. (I came to Moscow, and now I’m paying and crying.)

P. A. Viazemskii, letter to V. F. Viazemskaia,

May 31, 1854

[The stress is the only means of distinguishing plachú, “I pay,” and plachú, “I cry.”]

(5)Breakdown of set phrases and imparting a new meaningto them:

On nes vzdor, no nes ego v zhurnaly. (He talked nonsense but took it to the newspapers.)

E. Krotkii, Unwritten Fragments

[The verb nesti is used here first in a figurative meaning, in nesti vzdor, “to talk nonsense,” and then in its literal meaning, “to carry,” “to take.”]

(6)Various meanings of the same word or phrase:

Est’p’esy nastol’koslabye, chto ne mogut soiti so stseny. (There are plays so weak that they cannot leave the stage.)

S. J. Lec, Unkempt Thoughts

[The word slabyi, which in the context would normally mean “of low quality,” is taken in its literal meaning, “weak.”]

(7)Jocular etymologizing:

—Khochesh’ chaiu, Nikanor? … (Want some tea, Nikanor? …)

—Net, spasibo, ia uzhe otchaialsia. (No thanks, I’ve already fallen into despair.)

E. Petrov, The Jokester

[Here a new, impossible meaning, “to have had enough tea,” is made up for the verb otchaiat’sia, “to despair,” based on its sound similarity to chai, “tea.”]

The use of the pun in conveying a thought imparts to it particular expressiveness, emotional coloring, and entertaining quality, enhancing the humorous or satirical effect.


Shcherbina, A. A. Sushchnost’ i iskusstvo slovesnoi ostroty (kalambura). Kiev, 1958.



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)
References in periodicals archive ?
Therefore syphilis is implied here, since France is punningly said to be in Nell's forehead, attacking her hair (i.
But in fact it is the joke teller (Shakespeare in this case) who punningly misuses sound.
Not only will he 'pursue his course of life', but also Webster makes it punningly explicit that footmen's running was put to sporting as well as occupational use.
In keeping with this emphasis, Li punningly transforms Meng's allusion to "shen" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("god" or "spirit") into the more mundane "kuxue jingshen" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("spirit of diligence").
The title of this dark comedy is bitingly appropriate, a concise story synopsis so punningly flippant in its card-playing slang (despite a life hanging in the balance) as to be the perfect description of a genre in which the individual counts for little.
It is clear from the pictorial record, however, that the Black citizens of Virginia held a certain exotic appeal for the master, as Harper's Bazaar, rather tastelessly and punningly suggested in its article titled "Massa Dali in Ole Virginny.
Posters and book-jackets designed for his allegorical fable include one that punningly fuses a painted image with the names of the commune's leaders, Culvert and Lady Roseace: "It is semi-abstract and very bright--a tomato-coloured double-apple-cheeked fruit, with a serpentine pointed conical tube in very bright green, coiled round it and penetrating it.
While Taylor punningly portrays himself as a modest, laboring "sculler," Coryate's self-proclaimed identity as "scholar" in a more conventional sense is characterized by distance in every sense of the word.
The prominent flesh-coloured spout rises priapically from the lower body, which is punningly emblazoned on the ribbon on one side 'Lady Craveing's Teapot', and the whole may allude to her notorious tea parties with lovers at Craven Cottage, Fulham, in the late 1770s.
As Marvell punningly puts it: 'What the Ocean binds, is by the Bishops rent,/ The[ir] Sees make Islands in our Continent.
Part of the summer had been spent in Oxford visiting a former student, then a Junior Fellow at New College, and I learned from him that the Bullingdon Club, punningly satirized as the Bollinger by Waugh at the start of Decline and Fall--"At the last dinner, three years ago, a fox had been brought in in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles.
For example, in Meat Market, 2000, the artist makes a punningly humorous statement about couples when they first meet.