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: a joking or mocking remark
a clever jest
: prank
: a ludicrous circumstance or incident
a proper jest, and never heard before, that Suffolk should demand a whole fifteenth for costs and chargesWilliam Shakespeare
: a frivolous mood or manner
usually used with in
spoken in jest
: gaiety and merriment
I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of excellent fancyWilliam Shakespeare


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jested; jesting

intransitive verb

formal, dated
: to make jokes or jests : to say things intended to be humorous
"What's it like to design a building and have an apartment in it and have your name on it?" the architect asks, jesting, with his typically irrepressible energy. "It's like a hat trick."Philip Nobel
You voted for him? Surely you jest. [=you must be joking]
Choose the Right Synonym for jest

fun, jest, sport, game, play mean action or speech that provides amusement or arouses laughter.

fun usually implies laughter or gaiety but may imply merely a lack of serious or ulterior purpose.

played cards just for fun

jest implies lack of earnestness and may suggest a hoaxing or teasing.

hurt by remarks said only in jest

sport applies especially to the arousing of laughter against someone.

teasing begun in sport led to anger

game is close to sport, and often stresses mischievous or malicious fun.

made game of their poor relations

play stresses the opposition to earnest without implying any malice or mischief.

pretended to strangle his brother in play

Example Sentences

Noun It was a harmless jest. you should know that our teasing was done entirely in jest
Recent Examples on the Web
The jest had some truth in it: Lubitsch had been the advance agent for a mighty squadron of German-speaking directors, actors, screenwriters, producers, composers, and technicians. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 When jokes become dangerous For Matheson, the Alliance for a Better Utah communications director who was one of the first to tweet alarm about Smith’s DezNat ties, hiding hateful, discriminatory or antidemocratic ideas behind the guise of jest is harmful. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 July 2021 Drake isn’t too happy with YouTube music critic Anthony Fantano‘s latest jest. Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2022 Troops in a volunteer contingent called the Carpathian Sich, positioned near Nevske, said that some 30 fighters from their group had died in recent weeks, and soldiers said, only partly in jest, that just about everyone has a concussion. Michael Schwirtz Lynsey Addario, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2023 The trend was spotlighted earlier this month by Amber Yang, an early-stage investor in Bloomberg Beta, who later implied it was done somewhat in jest. Bychris Morris, Fortune, 31 Jan. 2023 The tweet where this claim originated was made in jest by a satirical account, though the account was not identified as such until after the Franklin tweet circulated widely on social media. Hannah Hudnall, USA TODAY, 28 Jan. 2023 This is all in jest. Ethan Shanfeld, Variety, 17 Jan. 2023 And unfortunately, names like that were given to slaves in jest. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 15 Jan. 2023
Indeed, as welcome as the food and air-conditioning are, the chance to jest with generational peers who get the joke is one of the biggest draws. Karan Deep Singh, New York Times, 28 Nov. 2022 For me at least, many of the videos which dominate my For You Page jest about planning and rehearsing arguments ahead of the real thing. Beth Ashley,, 14 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'jest.' 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 gest, geste, jeste "chivalric romance, tale, heroic deed, exploit, action, amusement," borrowed from Anglo-French geste "heroic deed, romance, tale," borrowed from Latin gesta "deeds, exploits," plural of gestum "something carried out," noun derivative from neuter of gestus, past participle of gerere "to carry, bear, conduct one's business, act, perform, do," from a verb stem ges- of uncertain origin

Note: The current senses of jest date from the 16th century. The Latin verb stem ges- is without evident Indo-European congeners. An old suggestion that it derives from *h2ǵ-es-, an extended form containing the zero grade of *h2eǵ- "drive" (see agent) has been revived (as, for example, by Michiel de Vaan in Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008; the original suggestion was by Hermann Osthoff in Beiträge zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sprachen, Band 19 [1893], pp. 320-22.) Parallel formations adduced by Osthoff are, however, questionable, as *u̯es- (see wear entry 1) from *eu̯- "put on (footwear)," not possible if the root is actually *h2eu̯(H)- (see exuviae). Latin ger- is unlikely to have any relation to Old Norse kǫr "heap, pile," kǫstr "pile," kasta "to throw, fling" (see cast entry 1).


Middle English gesten "to recite romances," derivative of geste "chivalric romance, tale" — more at jest entry 1

First Known Use


circa 1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1553, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of jest was circa 1548

Dictionary Entries Near jest

Cite this Entry

“Jest.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a comic act or remark : joke
: a playful mood or manner
spoken in jest
jest verb

More from Merriam-Webster on jest

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