lev·​i·​ty | \ ˈle-və-tē How to pronounce levity (audio) \

Definition of levity

1 : excessive or unseemly frivolity She would tolerate no levity in the classroom.
2 : lack of steadiness : changeableness the levity … of the brisk fire— Charles Dickens

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Levity Was Once a Scientific Term

Levity originally was thought to be a physical force exactly like gravity but pulling in the opposite direction, like the helium in a balloon. As recently as the 19th century, scientists were still arguing about its existence. Today levity refers only to lightness in manner. To stern believers of some religious faiths, levity is often regarded as almost sinful. But the word, like its synonym frivolity, now has an old-fashioned ring to it and is usually used only half-seriously.

Examples of levity in a Sentence

They managed to find some levity in the situation. the teachers disapprove of any displays of levity during school assemblies
Recent Examples on the Web Amid the tension, there have also been moments of levity. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska firefighters sent to Australia to help manage raging blazes," 11 Jan. 2020 The junior forward, who transferred from BYU, has become the Beavers’ source of levity. oregonlive, "Oregon State forward Payton Dastrup keeps his teammates laughing (video)," 8 Jan. 2020 My time working on a story about Walter Cole, aka Darcelle, provided some levity along with more than a little eye candy. oregonlive, "Looking back on 2019: An Oregonian photographer reflects on images of hope, fear, joy and perseverance," 27 Dec. 2019 But all that solemnity can be exhausting, and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have turned to a text chain for moments of levity, exchanging GIFs, attaboys, and morale check-ins by phone. BostonGlobe.com, "WASHINGTON — Far from any television camera and a half world away from Ukraine, a few dozen Democratic staff aides, lawyers, and House members are grinding away this weekend in a loose clump of Capitol Hill offices, the beating heart of the impeachment operation against President Donald Trump.," 7 Dec. 2019 But all that solemnity can be exhausting, and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have turned to a text chain for moments of levity, exchanging GIFs, atta-boys and morale check-ins by phone. Mark Leibovich, New York Times, "Behind the Scenes of Impeachment: Crammed Offices, Late Nights, Cold Pizza," 7 Dec. 2019 Norton avoids making the film too dense by sprinkling in tender moments and levity, drawing laughter from the audience. NBC News, "'Motherless Brooklyn' blends racism of 1950s New York with an old-school whodunit," 15 Nov. 2019 Trump, who is best known on the world stage for taunts and insults, has sought to infuse some levity into this confab of leaders representing the world’s largest economies at a time of trade wars, rising tensions with Iran and other challenges. Eli Stokols, latimes.com, "‘Don’t meddle in the election,’ Trump tells Putin with a smile," 28 June 2019 And so there are moments of levity like that where while things have broken down at a very partisan level on Capitol Hill, there are those moments of kind of humanism that exist as well. NBC News, "Transcript: Grilling the Lawyers," 11 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'levity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of levity

1564, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for levity

Latin levitat-, levitas, from levis light in weight — more at light

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Time Traveler for levity

Time Traveler

The first known use of levity was in 1564

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Statistics for levity

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Levity.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/levity. Accessed 27 January 2020.

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More Definitions for levity


How to pronounce levity (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of levity

somewhat formal
: a lack of seriousness
: an amusing quality

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More from Merriam-Webster on levity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for levity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with levity

Spanish Central: Translation of levity

Nglish: Translation of levity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of levity for Arabic Speakers

Comments on levity

What made you want to look up levity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that suddenly gains wealth or power

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