prat·​fall | \ ˈprat-ˌfȯl How to pronounce pratfall (audio) \

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 Full of existential angst and pratfalls, the series neatly balances comedy and drama. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "The 25 best TV shows of 2019, from 'Fleabag' to 'Stranger Things'," 4 Dec. 2019 All the silly facial expressions, near-pratfalls and broad body language wouldn’t amount to much, however, without singing that’s worthy of Rossini’s treacherous score. Howard Reich,, "Lyric Opera review: A wickedly funny ‘Barber of Seville’ begins season," 29 Sep. 2019 And your enjoyment of it will likely depend on your affection for pratfalls and silliness. Matthew J. Palm,, "‘Play That Goes Wrong’ gets its comedy right | Review," 4 Dec. 2019 Missick goes from a series with a lot of heavy action sequences to one with more talking and an occasional pratfall. Rick Bentley,, "Simone Missick gets over being Misty with ‘All Rise’," 19 Sep. 2019 Even the most graceful and godlike among us are prone to pratfalls. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, "Rudy Giuliani and the Butt-Dialler Within All of Us," 5 Nov. 2019 And unlike so many dads in animated offerings, Bluey's father will never be part of a pratfall. Rick Bentley,, "New Disney Junior series ‘Bluey’ tackles tough topics for preschoolers," 17 Oct. 2019 The idea is that parents would pay for some parts of YouTube popular with kids — the toy unboxers and niche animators — without the pratfalls of an unlimited content library. Mark Bergen, Los Angeles Times, "YouTube is under fire for inappropriate kids videos. Rivals see an opening," 29 Aug. 2019 Columbus has exceeded expectations this year and Warzycha has a pretty good record in the regular season, but the Crew's postseason pratfalls have had a lot to do with the coach in recent years. Grant Wahl,, "Soccer should create own equivalent of NFL Red Zone channel," 8 Sep. 2011

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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Time Traveler for pratfall

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The first known use of pratfall was in 1930

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pratfall.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for pratfall


How to pronounce pratfall (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pratfall

: a sudden fall in which you end up sitting on the ground
: an embarrassing mistake or accident

More from Merriam-Webster on pratfall

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pratfall

Nglish: Translation of pratfall for Spanish Speakers

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