rep·​ar·​tee ˌre-pər-ˈtē How to pronounce repartee (audio)
-ˈtā How to pronounce repartee (audio)
: a quick and witty reply
: a succession or interchange of clever retorts : amusing and usually light sparring with words
: adroitness and cleverness in reply : skill in repartee

Did you know?

Dorothy Parker was known for her repartee. Upon hearing that former president Calvin Coolidge had died, the poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and critic—famous for her acerbic wit—replied, “How can they tell?” The taciturn Coolidge, aka “Silent Cal,” obviously didn’t have a reputation for being the life of the party, but he could be counted on for the occasional bon mot, as when a Washington, D.C., hostess told him, “You must talk to me, Mr. President. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you,” and he replied, “You lose.” Repartee, our word for a quick, sharp reply (and for skill with such replies) comes from the French repartie, of the same meaning. Repartie itself is formed from the French verb repartir, meaning “to retort.”

Choose the Right Synonym for repartee

wit, humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee mean a mode of expression intended to arouse amusement.

wit suggests the power to evoke laughter by remarks showing verbal felicity or ingenuity and swift perception especially of the incongruous.

a playful wit

humor implies an ability to perceive the ludicrous, the comical, and the absurd in human life and to express these usually without bitterness.

a sense of humor

irony applies to a manner of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is seemingly expressed.

the irony of the title

sarcasm applies to expression frequently in the form of irony that is intended to cut or wound.

given to heartless sarcasm

satire applies to writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines, or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony, parody, or caricature.

a satire on the Congress

repartee implies the power of answering quickly, pointedly, or wittily.

a dinner guest noted for repartee

Examples of repartee in a Sentence

The two comedians engaged in witty repartee. that repartee to the reporter's question drew laughs from the bystanders
Recent Examples on the Web Romance, jealousy, and unexpected reunions combine for a spirited, comedic romp, filled with witty repartee and otherworldly surprises. David Catlin, The Enquirer, 6 Mar. 2024 Shawn and Gus' witty repartee was never offset by more than one or two deaths to people per episode., 26 Feb. 2024 The rapid-fire repartee and seamless synergy between the two got a harsh shake-up in the form of the Doctor’s regeneration into the 12th, played by Peter Capaldi. Maya Phillips, New York Times, 29 Dec. 2023 If that’s the sort of sparkling repartee that made it into Rennervations, how mind-numbing was the stuff that got cut? Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Apr. 2023 The conversation stiffens into repartee, and then into rage. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2023 The formidable pair’s repartee is thoroughly enjoyable to watch and the role serves as a wonderful example of Burstyn’s prolific work on television, earning her one of two Primetime Emmys. Dan Heching, CNN, 6 Oct. 2023 There’s Damon, whose repartee with Murphy approaches screwball levels. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 19 July 2023 And on many public occasions, Leung keeps the repartee to a minimum, amps up the soulful glare and goes long on banal gratitude. Patrick Frater, Variety, 2 Sep. 2023

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

Word History


French repartie, from repartir to retort, from Middle French, from re- + partir to divide — more at part

First Known Use

1637, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of repartee was in 1637


Dictionary Entries Near repartee

Cite this Entry

“Repartee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


rep·​ar·​tee ˌrep-ər-ˈtē How to pronounce repartee (audio) -ˌär- How to pronounce repartee (audio)
: a clever witty reply
: skill in making clever replies

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