rep·​ar·​tee | \ ˌre-pər-ˈtē How to pronounce repartee (audio) , -ˌpär-, -ˈtā How to pronounce repartee (audio) \

Definition of repartee

1a : a quick and witty reply
b : a succession or interchange of clever retorts : amusing and usually light sparring with words
2 : adroitness and cleverness in reply : skill in repartee

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Synonyms for repartee


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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

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One person often noted for her repartee was Dorothy Parker, writer and legendary member of the Algonquin Round Table. Upon hearing that Calvin Coolidge had died, she replied, "How can they tell?" The taciturn Coolidge obviously didn’t have a reputation for being the life of the party, but he himself came out with a particularly famous repartee on one occasion. When a dinner guest approached him and told him she had bet someone she could get him to say more than two words, he replied, "You lose." Repartee, our word for such a quick, sharp reply (and for skill with such replies) comes from the French repartie, of the same meaning. Repartie comes from the French verb repartir, meaning "to retort."

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 The quicksilver repartee for which Sir Tom is renowned is hushed. The Economist, "Laughter in the dark Tom Stoppard’s haunting new play about the Holocaust," 13 Feb. 2020 Still, the central couple’s repartee is enjoyable enough to power through the obviousness. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Last Christmas Is a Welcome Dose of Sweetness," 6 Nov. 2019 Shapiro’s engaging dialogue telescopes the justices’ personalities into punchy repartee, balanced so that neither decisively emerges victorious. Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, the stage show, in ‘Sisters in Law’," 1 Oct. 2019 The slightly blank expression on the furry faces of both main characters adds to the humor, and Climo’s laconic repartee between predator and prey is aimed pretty squarely at a 4-year-old’s funny bone. — Kathie Meizner, Washington Post, "Four new books to help your kids laugh and learn," 21 Oct. 2019 At that time, Martin had his doubts about their musical potential, but he was totally charmed by their personalities and repartee. Jonathan Gould, The New Yorker, "When the Beatles Walked Offstage: Fifty Years of “Abbey Road”," 21 Oct. 2019 Susan was fun and funny, with a keen sense of humor, great in repartee, and an infectious laugh., "Susan Haberlandt," 17 Nov. 2019 Some teammates are up for Ramey’s brand of sharp-tongued repartee. Nick Moyle,, "Courtney Ramey provides the motor — and mouth — Texas needs," 1 Nov. 2019 There was another drunk, this one engaged in comic repartee with some pigs, marvellously realistic, down to the coarse hair on their snouts. James Marcus, The New Yorker, "A Dark Ride," 29 Oct. 2019

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

1637, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for repartee

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

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The first known use of repartee was in 1637

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Cite this Entry

“Repartee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2020.

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How to pronounce repartee (audio) How to pronounce repartee (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of repartee

: conversation in which clever statements and replies are made quickly

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