pratfall

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

Definition of pratfall

1 : a fall on the buttocks
2 : a humiliating mishap or blunder

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 One of the secrets of slapstick, for instance, is that a pratfall is rarely painless: its effects on the body are merely delayed by the adrenal excitement of live performance. Ed Halter, The New Yorker, 4 Feb. 2022 But as so often happens with Johnson, behavior lauded as appropriately serious is quickly eclipsed by some pratfall. Christina Boyle, Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2021 And after a certain point, its choices pratfall into chaos, becoming accidentally hilarious. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 4 Nov. 2021 Lee’s one-out pratfall in Game 4 was rescued by stellar bullpen work and late home runs from Swanson and Jorge Soler. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 1 Nov. 2021 The 49ers offense again sputtered and Chicago got the ball back with 5:50 to play, but continued its pratfall with a second-play interception by Hicks, who returned it to midfield. Michael Lerseth, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Sep. 2021 Congrats on taking your son to an Amazing Kreskin show and also completing a convincing pratfall! New York Times, 19 Aug. 2021 Analysis: The Warriors had been playing well until Tuesday’s 133-103 pratfall against Dallas. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 28 Apr. 2021 The ups and downs in extra innings included a pratfall by Marlins catcher Sandy Leon. Steven Wine, sun-sentinel.com, 22 May 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of pratfall

1930, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pratfall

argot prat buttocks + fall

Learn More About pratfall

Time Traveler for pratfall

Time Traveler

The first known use of pratfall was in 1930

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About pratfall

Dictionary Entries Near pratfall

prate

pratfall

pratie

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pratfall

Cite this Entry

“Pratfall.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pratfall. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on pratfall

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pratfall

Nglish: Translation of pratfall for Spanish Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!