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 The biggest pratfall, though, and one that still haunts Chargers fans, came with San Diego leading 21-13 with just more than six minutes to play. Bernie Wilson, ajc, "Marty Schottenheimer, NFL coach with 200 wins, dies at 77," 9 Feb. 2021 But the equation is different this season, even with Thompson out — Golden State clearly aims to return to the playoffs after last season’s pratfall. Ron Kroichick,, "Draymond Green’s task: Transform Warriors into a game-changing defensive team," 19 Dec. 2020 Bouncy Eggs Find an empty egg carton, fill it with a dozen bouncy eggs ($3 each), sneak it into the refrigerator, and then on Christmas morning—making sure your beloved is watching—pull it out of the fridge and perform a comical pratfall. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "Just Buy Your Loved Ones Eleven Feet of Salami: A Food-Themed Gift Guide," 19 Dec. 2020 The Packers had scored at least 30 points in each of their first four games and hadn't committed a single turnover before their 38-10 pratfall against Tampa Bay. Steve Megargee, Star Tribune, "Packers QB Rodgers ready to move on after subpar performance," 21 Oct. 2020 The Stars had won seven of their last eight and had overcome their October pratfall when GM Jim Nill came to work the morning of Dec. 10 and fired second-year coach Jim Montgomery and promoted Bowness as interim coach. Kevin Paul Dupont,, "Former Bruins coach Rick Bowness is not done yet," 11 Jan. 2020 With 29 Emmy nominations (and six wins) between them, the core Modern Family ensemble has a lot of valuable players, but my MVP will always be Ty Burrell, a master of pratfall and punnery and poignant TV-dad warmth. Kristen Baldwin,, "Modern Family's series finale is a feel-good farewell to a comedy pioneer: Review," 9 Apr. 2020 His clowning isn’t the circus kind, taking pratfalls and climbing out of little cars. Steve Rubenstein,, "On the bright side: 113-year-old Bay Area woman plans to survive her second global pandemic," 9 Apr. 2020 The Democratic pratfalls in Iowa may be good for a laugh today. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Democrats’ Clown Car," 4 Feb. 2020

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

The first known use of pratfall was in 1930

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Last Updated

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pratfall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

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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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