AskDefine | Define wordplay

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wordplay \Word"play`\, n. A more or less subtle playing upon the meaning of words. [Webster 1913 Suppl.]

Word Net

wordplay n : a humorous play on words; "I do it for the pun of it"; "his constant punning irritated her" [syn: pun, punning, paronomasia]



  1. humorous play on words
  2. witty verbal exchanges

Related terms

Word play is a literary and narrative technique in which the nature of the words used themselves become part of the subject of the work. Puns, phonetic mix-ups such as spoonerisms, obscure words and meanings, clever rhetorical excursions, oddly formed sentences, and telling character names are common examples of word play.
Word play is quite common in oral cultures as a method of reinforcing meaning.
Interestingly enough, strictly visual orthographic word play is much less predominant than sound-based word play in alphabetically written literatures. This may be due to the fundamental orality of written communication in those literatures, as compared with word play in ideographically written literatures such as the Chinese.
Most writers engage in word play to some extent, but certain writers are particularly adept or committed to word play. Shakespeare's "quibbles" have made him a noted punster. P.G. Wodehouse was also hailed as a "comic genius recognized in his lifetime as a classic and an old master of farce" for his ingenious wordplay. James Joyce, author of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, is another noted word-player. For example, Joyce's phrase "they were yung and easily freudened" clearly conveys the meaning "young and easily frightened," but it also makes puns on the names of two famous psychoanalysts, Jung and Freud.
Other writers closely identified with word play include:
Plays can enter common usage as neologisms.
Word play is closely related to word games, that is, games in which the point is manipulating words. See also language game for a linguist's variation. The Hungarian term for wordplay, occasionally used in the circle for its diaeres is Szójáték.
A taxonomy of word play together with record-holding words in each category is available here: Taxonomy of Wordplay
wordplay in German: Wortspiel
wordplay in French: Jeu de mots
wordplay in Japanese: 言葉遊び
wordplay in Polish: Paragram
wordplay in Swedish: Paragram
wordplay in Vietnamese: Lộng ngữ
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