slap·​stick | \ ˈslap-ˌstik How to pronounce slapstick (audio) \

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 How to pronounce slapsticky (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for slapstick


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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 Anyway, there are several contenders actively vying for the privilege, including Wilson and Corden, each of whom offers up some pretty funny tunes and slapstick celebrating the joys of feline gluttony and fireside sloth. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland, "‘Cats,’ with Judi Dench, Taylor Swift and ballerina Francesca Hayward, could be the pick of the litter for musicals," 18 Dec. 2019 The heart of this play belongs not to the unrequited romances — of which there are plenty — but to the wry wit and uproarious slapstick of it all. Lisa Kennedy, The Know, "Review: The accent is on the hilarious at the Denver Center’s “Twelfth Night”," 30 Nov. 2019 What happens next is a production that relies heavily on the three Vs of entertainment: Vegas, vaudeville and variety. Glittery costumes, a bit of slapstick, some song-and-dance numbers, and oh, the variety acts. Donna Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, "Cirque Dreams Holidaze is loud, jaw-dropping and really entertaining," 28 Dec. 2019 Everyone finds just the right balance of slapstick and drama. Laura Demarco, cleveland, "‘Clue’ at Cleveland Play House: The game’s afoot with campy laughs and thrills (review)," 1 Feb. 2020 But that description fails to account for the show’s incomparable slapstick comedy and sharp satirical take on contemporary work culture. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "The Ultimate Ranking of the Best Memes of The Office That Will Have You Laughing Through the Daily Grind," 28 Jan. 2020 Detroit rallied from a 71-67 deficit with a deflating 15-2 run while the Celtics spent the fourth quarter urgently trying to rally, only to bumble and stumble about in slapstick fashion. Gary Washburn,, "Pistons’ third-quarter buzzer beater was a final dagger in Celtics’ ugliest loss this season," 15 Jan. 2020 Kate plays a little of an old horror record, Drop Dead, the source for several slapstick doctor skits in the video: while Kate narrates, Spalding plays a mad dentist onscreen, chasing patient Ron around the room with a drill. David Gordon, Harper's magazine, "The Forty-Year Rehearsal," 6 Jan. 2020 John Wick 3: Parabellum > Joker Chad Stahelski’s slapstick violence wittily satirizes Millennial desperation (imagine if John Woo had Fred Astaire’s aplomb). Armond White, National Review, "The 15th Annual Better-Than List," 3 Jan. 2020

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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The first known use of slapstick was in 1896

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Last Updated

25 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Slapstick.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for slapstick


How to pronounce slapstick (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of slapstick

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

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