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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

Examples of jest in a Sentence

Noun It was a harmless jest. you should know that our teasing was done entirely in jest Verb when I asked my sister for a loan, she laughingly replied, "Surely you jest!"
Recent Examples on the Web
However, none of the moments of jest about his love life were as scathing as the comments about his prior relationship with Moynahan. Danielle Jennings, Peoplemag, 6 May 2024 Image What started as a wilderness jest has by now morphed into something slightly less tongue-in-cheek. Steven Kurutz, New York Times, 2 Apr. 2024 Then an email in her inbox, which started as a jest, changed everything. Rachel Roberts, Idaho Statesman, 2 Feb. 2024 But this satiric jest is the film’s only slant (a preening quirk eventually dropped). Armond White, National Review, 19 Oct. 2022 Where other veterans such as McKinnon and Thompson built a gleeful jest into their character work, Strong dug for deeper, grittier stuff. Amanda Wicks, The Atlantic, 18 Dec. 2022 But her actions, even taken in jest, serve as a reminder that everything from microplastics to global warming impact Earth’s oceans in alarming ways. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, 7 July 2023 Biden turned around and lifted his hands in jest of the lighthearted moment. Victoria Hernandez, USA TODAY, 5 June 2023 Rodrigues’s ultimate jest exposes the scandal and outrage that are hidden by post-Obergefell propriety. Armond White, National Review, 31 May 2023
The two also jested about their pet peeves about each other. Emily St. Martin, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2023 This led him to jest about a personal request from viewers. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 2 July 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

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 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on jest

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