slapstick

noun
slap·stick | \ˈslap-ˌstik \

Definition of slapstick 

1 : a device made of two flat pieces of wood fastened at one end so as to make a loud noise when used by an actor to strike a person

2 : comedy stressing farce and horseplay also : activity resembling slapstick

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Other Words from slapstick

slapstick adjective
slapsticky \ˈslap-ˌsti-kē \ adjective

Synonyms for slapstick

Synonyms

comedy, farce, humor

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Did You Know?

The idea that knocking people about made for good comedy dates as far back as the Greco-Roman theater, where clowns rambunctiously "attacked" one another onstage. The object from which the word slapstick derives, however, was invented in Italy in the 16th century. Renaissance comedy typically featured stock characters placed in ridiculous situations, and one such ubiquitous character was Harlequin, whose brilliant costuming made him easily recognizable. Harlequin was given to wielding a paddle which was designed to make a terrible noise when he hit someone, usually to the delight of the audience. This paddle was eventually known in English as a "slapstick," and it became a symbol of that type of highly physical comedy. The word slapstick then came to refer to the comedy itself.

Examples of slapstick in a Sentence

an actor whose roles range from slapstick to serious drama a lowbrow comedy that relies heavily on slapstick for its laughs

Recent Examples on the Web

So why not bring in somebody so adept with slapstick and goofy visual humor? Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The folks behind Ant-Man and the Wasp on why Marvel doesn’t always have to save the world," 5 July 2018 But a fine cast (including Bobby Cannavale as Laura’s feckless ex-husband) can’t compensate for the screenplay’s superficial sentimentality and lazy slapstick. That Rolls-Royce is pretty sweet, though. Shana Feste, New York Times, "Review: A Father and Daughter Renegotiate ‘Boundaries’," 21 June 2018 But the real comedy comes from the video’s remarkable original edit, which alternated perfectly between the male and female suspects’ scenes, conveying unintended slapstick with nary a sound. Amy B Wang, Washington Post, "Cameras capture every angle of Canadian couple’s snack-throwing, ceiling-shattering arrest," 30 June 2018 Canadian Security Footage Shows How Not to Pull Off a Heist The couple's escape attempt plays like a slapstick silent film. Luke Darby, GQ, "Canadian Security Footage Shows How Not to Pull Off a Heist," 1 July 2018 All the old-timey stage shtick are in place: running gags, freeze motion, slapstick, men dressed as women, women dressed as men, lots of shouting, and a nifty chase scene. Toby Zinman, Philly.com, "'Maria Marten' is a rowdy Victorian melodrama of love, revenge and murder," 10 June 2018 The filmmaking always seems to be in service of whatever piece of slapstick or one-liner is on the screen at the moment. Peter Hartlaub, kansascity, "‘Show Dogs’ cop/canine caper is a laugh-free loser | The Kansas City Star," 17 May 2018 But the real comedy comes from the video's remarkable original edit, which alternated perfectly between the male and female suspects' scenes, conveying unintended slapstick with nary a sound. Amy B Wang, ajc, "Cameras capture every angle of Canadian couple's snack-throwing, ceiling-shattering arrest," 1 July 2018 Director Jeff Tomsic, working from a script by Mark Steilen and Rob McKittrick, swings from violent slapstick to tender moments in slapdash fashion. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm play the game in 'Tag'," 14 June 2018

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

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near slapstick

slapper

slappy

slap shot

slapstick

slap together

slap-up

slap with

Statistics for slapstick

Last Updated

8 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for slapstick

The first known use of slapstick was in 1896

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More Definitions for slapstick

slapstick

noun

English Language Learners Definition of slapstick

: comedy that involves physical action (such as falling down or hitting people)

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