humor

1 of 2

noun

hu·​mor ˈhyü-mər How to pronounce humor (audio)
ˈyü-
plural humors
1
a
: that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous : a funny or amusing quality
Try to appreciate the humor of the situation.
b
: the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous : the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny
a woman with a great sense of humor
c
: something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing
The book is a collection of American humor.
not a fan of the comedian's brand of humor
2
a
: an often temporary state of mind imposed especially by circumstances
was in no humor to listen
b
: characteristic or habitual disposition or bent : temperament
of cheerful humor
c
in ancient and medieval physiology : one of the four fluids that were believed to enter into the constitution of the body and to determine by their relative proportions a person's health and temperament see black bile, blood entry 1 sense 4a(2), phlegm sense 2, yellow bile
d
: a sudden, unpredictable, or unreasoning inclination : whim
… conceived the humor of impeaching casual passers-by … and wreaking vengeance on them.Charles Dickens
the uncertain humors of nature
3
a
: a normal functioning bodily semifluid or fluid (such as the blood or lymph)
b
physiology : a secretion (such as a hormone) that is an excitant of activity

humor

2 of 2

verb

humored; humoring ˈhyüm-riŋ How to pronounce humor (audio)
ˈyüm-,
ˈhyü-mə-,
ˈyü-

transitive verb

1
: to soothe or content (someone) by indulgence : to comply with the temperament or inclinations of
The only way to get along with him is to humor him.
I know you don't agree, but just humor me.
2
: to adapt oneself to
… yielding to, and humoring the motion of the limbs and twigs …William Bartram
Phrases
out of humor
: out of sorts

Did you know?

In the Middle Ages it was believed that a person’s health and disposition were the result of a balance of four fluids in the body. These fluids were called humors, from the Latin word humor, meaning “moisture.” The fluids were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. If a person had a cheerful disposition, it was said to be a result of an excess of blood. A sluggish disposition was the result of an excess of phlegm. A hot-tempered disposition was said to be caused by an excess of yellow bile, and the disposition of a gloomy person was the result of an excess of black bile. In time, humor came to be used as a general term for “disposition or temperament.” From this developed the sense of “a changeable state of mind” or “mood.” More recently humor has come to refer to something that is funny.

Choose the Right Synonym for humor

Noun

wit, humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee mean a mode of expression intended to arouse amusement.

wit suggests the power to evoke laughter by remarks showing verbal felicity or ingenuity and swift perception especially of the incongruous.

a playful wit

humor implies an ability to perceive the ludicrous, the comical, and the absurd in human life and to express these usually without bitterness.

a sense of humor

irony applies to a manner of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is seemingly expressed.

the irony of the title

sarcasm applies to expression frequently in the form of irony that is intended to cut or wound.

given to heartless sarcasm

satire applies to writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines, or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony, parody, or caricature.

a satire on the Congress

repartee implies the power of answering quickly, pointedly, or wittily.

a dinner guest noted for repartee

Verb

indulge, pamper, humor, spoil, baby, mollycoddle mean to show undue favor to a person's desires and feelings.

indulge implies excessive compliance and weakness in gratifying another's or one's own desires.

indulged myself with food at the slightest excuse

pamper implies inordinate gratification of desire for luxury and comfort with consequent enervating effect.

pampered by the amenities of modern living

humor stresses a yielding to a person's moods or whims.

humored him by letting him tell the story

spoil stresses the injurious effects on character by indulging or pampering.

foolish parents spoil their children

baby suggests excessive care, attention, or solicitude.

babying students by grading too easily

mollycoddle suggests an excessive degree of care and attention to another's health or welfare.

refused to mollycoddle her malingering son

Examples of humor in a Sentence

Noun He didn't appreciate the humor of the situation. Someday, you'll see the humor in this. Everyone likes the gentle humor of his stories of family life. She doesn't care for ethnic humor. The book is a collection of American humor. His humor is one of his most attractive qualities. Verb The only way to get along with him is to humor him. humored her grandfather by listening to his war stories for the hundredth time
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Fitness icon Richard Simmons is celebrating his 76th birthday with his signature playful humor. Jason Sheeler, Peoplemag, 12 July 2024 Set in modern-day Detroit, Young Martin follows Martin Payne, a spirited teenager whose journey is characterized by ambition, humor, and a genuine compassion for those around him. Nellie Andreeva, Deadline, 11 July 2024
Verb
And humor me: Keep your own financial feet planted. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 1 July 2024 The Russian president humors Erdogan’s desire for regional authority in a way the West does not, and Erdogan, in turn, has avoided taking a firm position on the war in Ukraine. Asli Aydintasbas, Foreign Affairs, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for humor 

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

Middle English humour, from Anglo-French umor, umour, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin humor, from Latin humor, umor moisture; akin to Old Norse vǫkr damp, Latin humēre to be moist, and perhaps to Greek hygros wet

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2c

Verb

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near humor

Cite this Entry

“Humor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humor. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

humor

1 of 2 noun
hu·​mor ˈhyü-mər How to pronounce humor (audio)
ˈyü-
1
: a changeable state of mind often influenced by circumstances
in a bad humor
2
: the amusing quality of things
the humor of a situation
3
: the power to see or tell about the amusing or comic side of things
4
: something that is humorous
humorless
-ləs
adjective
humorlessness noun

humor

2 of 2 verb
humored; humoring ˈhyüm-(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce humor (audio)
ˈyüm-
: to go along with the wishes or mood of
humor a sick person
Etymology

Noun

Middle English humour "one of the four bodily fluids thought to affect a person's health," from early French umor, umour (same meaning), derived from Latin humor, umor "moisture"

Word Origin
In the Middle Ages it was believed that a person's health and disposition were the result of a balance or imbalance of four fluids in the body. These fluids were called "humors," from the Latin word humor, meaning "moisture." These fluids were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. If a person had a cheerful, confident disposition, it was said to be a result of an excess of blood. Such a person was called "sanguine," from the Latin word sanguis, meaning "blood." A sluggish disposition was said to be the result of an excess of phlegm. A person having such a disposition was called "phlegmatic," from the Greek word phlegma, meaning "flame, phlegm." A fiery, hot-tempered disposition was said to be caused by an excess of yellow bile. A person with this disposition was said to be "choleric," from the Greek word cholē, meaning "bile." The disposition of a gloomy, depressed person was said to be the result of an excess of black bile. Such a person was called "melancholy," from the Greek words melan-, meaning "black," and cholē, meaning "bile." In time the word humor came to be used as a general term for "disposition or temperament." From this developed the sense of "a changeable state of mind" or "mood." More recently humor has come to refer to something that is funny.

Medical Definition

humor

noun
hu·​mor
variants or chiefly British humour
1
a
: a normal functioning bodily semifluid or fluid (as the blood or lymph)
b
: a secretion (as a hormone) that is an excitant of activity
2
in ancient and medieval physiology : one of the four fluids that were believed to enter into the constitution of the body and to determine by their relative proportions a person's health and temperament see black bile, blood sense 3, phlegm sense 2, yellow bile

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