prat·fall | \ˈprat-ˌfȯl \

Definition of pratfall 

1 : a fall on the buttocks

2 : a humiliating mishap or blunder

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Did You Know?

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

The most reliable eye-catcher is still the pratfall. Richard Goldstein, New York Times, "Frank Ramsey, First Among ‘Sixth Men’ in the N.B.A., Dies at 86," 8 July 2018 Watching Izzy’s frenzied pratfalls often feels like watching a documentary of Ms. Davis — always great — running a hamster wheel that powers uninspired comic material. Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times, "Review: Mackenzie Davis Gets ‘Across Town,’ With Diversions," 21 June 2018 Its rambling public rooms are wildly theatrical, its more compact ones suggest an unexpected intimacy, and its over-the-top decorative features offer opportunities for any number of pratfalls. New York Times, "Summer’s Most Style-Savvy Movie Is a Cartoon," 3 July 2018 Comedy norms may shift drastically from generation to generation, but pratfalls remain in style. Andrew R. Chow, New York Times, "What’s on TV Wednesday: The World Cup Semifinals and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’," 11 July 2018 Its rambling public rooms are wildly theatrical, its more compact ones suggest an unexpected intimacy, and its over-the-top decorative features offer opportunities for any number of pratfalls. Ruth La Ferla, The Seattle Times, "In “Incredibles 2,” the Parr house is the breakout star," 9 July 2018 USA TODAY Sports There was no eye-popping dominance, or headline-grabbing pratfalls in Shohei Ohtani's fourth major league start Tuesday night. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Shohei Ohtani strikes out seven, but Astros make him work, wear him down," 24 Apr. 2018 The weaponized silliness results in some painful pratfalls, including one character’s plunge from an apartment fire escape and, later, having a thermos of hot coffee thrown in his face. Ann Hornaday, kansascity, "A game cast makes good-natured ‘Tag’ a fun time," 14 June 2018 That's all the conflict this script needs to set up a series of extravagantly painful pranks, pratfalls and don't-try-this-at-home physical comedy. Peter Debruge,, "'Action Point' review: You'll only hurt yourself watching this Johnny Knoxville film," 1 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pratfall.' 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 pratfall

1930, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pratfall

argot prat buttocks + fall

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Statistics for pratfall

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for pratfall

The first known use of pratfall was in 1930

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English Language Learners Definition of pratfall

: a sudden fall in which you end up sitting on the ground

: an embarrassing mistake or accident

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