prat·​fall ˈprat-ˌfȯl How to pronounce pratfall (audio)
: a fall on the buttocks
: a humiliating mishap or blunder

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The human posterior has been given a number of designations over the centuries, some not acceptable in polite company. "Prat," a slang term with only slightly indecorous overtones, has been used in reference to the backside since the 16th century. It wasn't until the 1930s, however, that falling on one's prat gave rise to the term "pratfall." The word first cropped up in the lingo of comedy theater, where a pratfall is often part of a slapstick routine. It wasn't long before we gave the word its extended sense of "blunder." Now, with "prat" rarely used as a synonym of "derriere" anymore, "pratfall" is as apt to suggest getting a pie in the face as landing bang on one's behind.

Examples of pratfall in a Sentence

He slipped and took a pratfall into the mud.
Recent Examples on the Web In a career that spans more than half a century, President Biden has long been known all too well for mangling words, names and dates in verbal pratfalls known, perhaps gently, as gaffes. Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2024 McCarthy is typically excellent, but her rapid-fire put downs and fearless pratfalls are elevated by her costar, Jason Statham, who kills it in an out of character comedic role. Johnny Loftus,, 14 Nov. 2023 Twitter Blue was the first in a series of pratfalls that would slash sixty per cent of the company’s advertising revenue and lead to an exodus of users to other platforms. Sheon Han, The New Yorker, 5 Jan. 2024 There are also lots of comedic pratfalls and bonks on the head, Willy mourns his late mother, and his young friend Noodle (Calah Lane) is locked up in a dark, dirty bird coop by one of the villains. Common Sense Media, Washington Post, 15 Dec. 2023 Dashing Through the Snow (PG) Streaming Age 8+ Entertaining holiday tale has pratfalls, uplifting themes. Common Sense Media, Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2023 During the sequence, the actor’s inebriated character struggles to get into the Lambo and drive it home from a country club, taking a number of outrageous pratfalls in the process. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 2 Nov. 2023 The humor was broad and shameless, embracing bad puns and big pratfalls. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2023 Harvey reemerged in a 2015 team on a Mets team that seemed to put its usual pratfalls behind it. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 5 May 2023 See More

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

Word History


argot prat buttocks + fall

First Known Use

1930, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pratfall was in 1930


Dictionary Entries Near pratfall

Cite this Entry

“Pratfall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


prat·​fall ˈprat-ˌfȯl How to pronounce pratfall (audio)
: a fall on the backside

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