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?

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 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

Example Sentences

The two comedians engaged in witty repartee. that repartee to the reporter's question drew laughs from the bystanders
Recent Examples on the Web Cheryl and Preet had an easy chemistry and repartee. Francesca Street, CNN, 25 Oct. 2022 But his scripts for those films were better than this one, with its lumbering attempts at uber-tough repartee and characters drawn (as well as played, with cartoonish accents) in broad, blunt terms. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 24 Oct. 2022 The rapport between the two men is irrepressible; their repartee might be the most vintage part of the evening, harking back not to 1970s funk and soul but to the vaudeville of the 1910s. Adam Bradley Adam Bradley Photographs By D’angelo Lovell Williams Styled By Ian Bradley Nick Haramis Photographs By Lise Sarfati Styled By Suzanne Koller Sasha Weiss Photographs By Justin French Susan Dominus Photographs By Luis Alberto Rodriguez Styled By Charlotte Collet, New York Times, 13 Oct. 2022 Ultimately, the humor comes from the rapid-fire repartee between best friends Keeley and Rebecca. Tyler Coates, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Aug. 2022 President Biden — who had remained silent during the repartee — finally, at the urging of his fellow leaders, swiveled his chair around and smiled for the photo. Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post, 26 June 2022 This kind of cheeky repartee with an all-too-eager audience was on full display throughout Saturday night’s affair. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 21 Aug. 2022 Presence, work-the-stage chops, and spicy repartee at which Presley excelled still exist in pop and hip-hop, of course: See Harry Styles, Lizzo, and Doja Cat. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 16 Aug. 2022 One was a tidy, careful and empty-space minimalist; the other, a voracious maximalist, with something (a lot) to say about everything and ever ready with a cutting repartee. Los Angeles Times, 26 July 2022 See More

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.

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 5 Dec. 2022.

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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