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japed; japing

intransitive verb

: to say or do something jokingly or mockingly

transitive verb

: to make mocking fun of
japer noun
japery noun


2 of 2


: something designed to arouse amusement or laughter: such as
: gibe
: an amusing literary or dramatic production
a jape that would be okay as a sophomore class playJohn Simon

Did you know?

Jape mysteriously appeared in the English language during the 14th century and was adopted by literary folks, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, as a word meaning both "to trick" and "to jeer." It was also used, however, with the meanings "to seduce (someone)" or "to have sexual intercourse." This ambiguity forced writers to think twice about using "jape" in fear of misinterpretation. Ultimately, the word was avoided by respectable writers, and by the end of the 16th century it had fallen into disuse. But this four-letter word was not completely forgotten. It got its second chance when 19th-century writers began using its "jeer" meaning again - leaving its carnal meaning in oblivion.

Examples of jape in a Sentence

Verb the characters in Oscar Wilde's plays jape with a readiness and sophistication that is rarely, if ever, encountered in real life Noun by the standards of today's no-holds-barred satire, Will Rogers' homespun japes about politicians seem awfully gentle
Recent Examples on the Web
He is reported to have participated in a pestilential online gun culture, replete with tasteless japing about mass shootings. wsj.com, 12 May 2023
This one happens to run on digital blood spatter, bootleg CGI and japes about genitalia, but the animus behind these films is nostalgia for the kind of pounding marquee movies of the 1980s and ‘90s, when the men were muscly and the misogyny was cool with everyone. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2023 But as the capital merry-go-round spun its peccadilloes, scandals and ballyhooed promises, his jaunty baritone restored order with bipartisan japes and irreverent songs to deflate the preening ego and the Big Idea. Presidents from Eisenhower to Trump caught the flak. Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2023 Characterizing universes in which this kind of informaiotn transmission can take place might be a useful jape for astrobiologists with time on their hands. The Physics Arxiv Blog, Discover Magazine, 28 Feb. 2023 Director Aaron Posner’s organizing notion proves far better suited to a short skit than a full 150 minutes of expository twists — and antiquated japes. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2020 The coffee table part is a funny jape about the design’s similarity to a piece of midcentury furniture, an undulating shape raised on legs; but the kunsthalle part is more telling. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, 9 July 2019 Local guffaw nuts can hit up the annual jape show that is the Orlando Comedy Festival (6 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, Hilton Garden Inn at SeaWorld, 6850 Westwood Blvd. in Orlando, $20-$35, orlandocomedyfestival.com). Trevor Fraser, orlandosentinel.com, 19 June 2019 Bankruptcy jape Elon Musk sought to lighten the mood after one of the worst weeks for Tesla Inc. in its 15-year history with a series of April Fool’s Day tweets about bankruptcy. Bloomberg.com, 2 Apr. 2018 The latter was a jape; the former was a cautionary howl. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, 30 Mar. 2018 See More

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

Word History



Middle English

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near jape

Cite this Entry

“Jape.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jape. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

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