1 of 3

noun (1)

ca·​per ˈkā-pər How to pronounce caper (audio)
: an illegal or questionable act or escapade
With luck, Bobby Joe could have become a rich man. But lacking an excess of smarts to begin with, he had pulled off this caper largely due to the efforts of some brainier military personnel who set the thing up for him in Saigon.John Nichols
: an amusing movie or story about such an act or escapade
This offbeat, Runyonesque caper shows uncanny insight into the psychology of the con man and his all-too-willing victims.Sybil Steinberg
: a capricious escapade : prank
The boys were disciplined for their foolish capers.
: a frolicsome leap
He was so happy he cut a caper on the steps.
I feel as if I could be anything or everything; as if I could rant and storm, or sigh, or cut capers in any tragedy or comedy in the English language.Jane Austen


2 of 3


capered; capering ˈkā-p(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce caper (audio)

intransitive verb

: to leap or prance about in a playful manner
lambs capering in the meadow


3 of 3

noun (2)

: any of a genus (Capparis of the family Capparidaceae, the caper family) of low prickly shrubs of the Mediterranean region
especially : one (C. spinosa) cultivated for its buds
: one of the greenish flower buds or young berries of the caper pickled and used as a seasoning or garnish

Did you know?

Caper in Latin means "a male goat". Anyone who has watched a young goat frolic in a field or clamber onto the roof of a car knows the kind of crazy fun the English word caper —which is also a verb—is referring to. A capriole is a backward kick done in midair by a trained horse. Capricorn, meaning "horned goat", is a constellation and one of the signs of the zodiac. And a capricious act is one that's done with as little thought as a frisky goat might give it.

Examples of caper in a Sentence

Noun (1) long-ago college capers that have become more rollicking and daring with each recounting Verb a young goat capering in its pen as summer drew to a close, the children spent their days wistfully capering on the beach
Recent Examples on the Web
Thin-crust, brick-oven pizza is made with dough from a century-old recipe, and toppings range from anchovy fillets and capers to spinach, ricotta, and prosciutto to broccoli and garlic with white sauce. Samantha Dimauro, Travel + Leisure, 10 May 2024 Smith also mentioned almonds, anchovies, capers, cheese and fresh herbs. David Hudnall, Kansas City Star, 9 May 2024 The Porsche caper began around 12:45 a.m. on Saturday when police responded to reports of a commercial burglary in the 5000 block of Cushing Parkway, the Fremont Police Department announced in a news release Wednesday. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2024 In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, parsley, red onion, capers and scallions. Lidey Heuck, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 May 2024 Hearts of palm, marinated artichoke hearts, capers and pepperoncini work well with other vegetables and add a unique tang. Clare Mulroy, USA TODAY, 5 May 2024 The dressing, made with Niçoise olives, capers, anchovy and garlic, is similar to a Provençal tapenade. David Tanis, New York Times, 1 May 2024 The deodorant caper happened on March 17 at an Agoura Hills CVS drugstore shortly after 8:30 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr. 2024 Among the restaurant’s most popular dishes are chicken salad, its signature burger and the trout — grilled or cooked with lemon capers. Philip Freeman, Charlotte Observer, 24 Apr. 2024
The plot dissolves into sheer lunacy (in both senses of the word), as the whole company comes out to caper in a park in the moonlight — ostensibly to frighten Falstaff, but really just for the unleashed joy of taking over a public space. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 9 Aug. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'caper.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun (1)

probably by shortening & alteration from capriole

Noun (2)

back-formation from earlier capers (taken as a plural), from Middle English caperis, from Latin capparis, from Greek kapparis

First Known Use

Noun (1)

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1588, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of caper was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near caper

Cite this Entry

“Caper.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
ca·​per ˈkā-pər How to pronounce caper (audio)
: a pickled flower bud or young berry of a low prickly shrub of the Mediterranean region that is used as a seasoning


2 of 3 verb
capered; capering -p(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce caper (audio)
: to leap about in a lively way


3 of 3 noun
: a playful bounding leap or spring
: a playful or mischievous trick
: an illegal or questionable act


from earlier capers "caper shrub or berry" (mistaken as a plural), from Middle English caperis (same meaning), from Latin capperis "caper shrub"


probably an altered form of English capriole "a playful leap, a leap by a trained horse," from early French capriole or early Italian capriola (both, same meaning), derived from Latin capreolus "goat, male deer"

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