1 of 2


: a joking or mocking remark
a clever jest
: prank
: a ludicrous circumstance or incident
a proper jest, and never heard before, that Suffolk should demand a whole fifteenth for costs and charges William Shakespeare
: a frivolous mood or manner
usually used with in
spoken in jest
: gaiety and merriment
I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of excellent fancy William Shakespeare


2 of 2


jested; jesting

intransitive verb

formal, dated
: to make jokes or jests : to say things intended to be humorous
"What's it like to design a building and have an apartment in it and have your name on it?" the architect asks, jesting, with his typically irrepressible energy. "It's like a hat trick." Philip Nobel
You voted for him? Surely you jest. [=you must be joking]
Choose the Right Synonym for jest

fun, jest, sport, game, play mean action or speech that provides amusement or arouses laughter.

fun usually implies laughter or gaiety but may imply merely a lack of serious or ulterior purpose.

played cards just for fun

jest implies lack of earnestness and may suggest a hoaxing or teasing.

hurt by remarks said only in jest

sport applies especially to the arousing of laughter against someone.

teasing begun in sport led to anger

game is close to sport, and often stresses mischievous or malicious fun.

made game of their poor relations

play stresses the opposition to earnest without implying any malice or mischief.

pretended to strangle his brother in play

Example Sentences

Noun It was a harmless jest. you should know that our teasing was done entirely in jest
Recent Examples on the Web
Usually, it is mentioned in jest, or perhaps in a fit of post-game exasperation. Mike Scott,, 29 Oct. 2017 Simmons said principals were given discretion over the dress code, and any threats involving a bat were made in jest. Jacob Carpenter, Houston Chronicle, 23 Oct. 2017 Though the remark was in jest, it reflects the unsettling reality that a number of Ryan's closest allies in the Republican caucus are abandoning ship., 20 Oct. 2017 Though the remark was in jest, it reflects the unsettling reality that a number of Ryan's closest allies in the Republican caucus are abandoning ship. Abigail Tracy, The Hive, 20 Oct. 2017 Alas, poor Virgin America, an airline of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Ryan Craggs, CNT, 10 Oct. 2017 Frost said in jest to much laughter during his postgame press conference. Chris Hays,, 1 Sep. 2017 There was a good bit of growling involved, but all was in jest, said Crosby’s owner, Mansi Shah, 22. Mary Hui, Washington Post, 27 Aug. 2017 Sturgeon said, somewhat in jest but making his point. Maureen Robertson, Ramona Sentinel, 14 Aug. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'jest.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English gest, geste, jeste "chivalric romance, tale, heroic deed, exploit, action, amusement," borrowed from Anglo-French geste "heroic deed, romance, tale," borrowed from Latin gesta "deeds, exploits," plural of gestum "something carried out," noun derivative from neuter of gestus, past participle of gerere "to carry, bear, conduct one's business, act, perform, do," from a verb stem ges- of uncertain origin

Note: The current senses of jest date from the 16th century. The Latin verb stem ges- is without evident Indo-European congeners. An old suggestion that it derives from *h2ǵ-es-, an extended form containing the zero grade of *h2eǵ- "drive" (see agent) has been revived (as, for example, by Michiel de Vaan in Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008; the original suggestion was by Hermann Osthoff in Beiträge zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sprachen, Band 19 [1893], pp. 320-22.) Parallel formations adduced by Osthoff are, however, questionable, as *u̯es- (see wear entry 1) from *eu̯- "put on (footwear)," not possible if the root is actually *h2eu̯(H)- (see exuviae). Latin ger- is unlikely to have any relation to Old Norse kǫr "heap, pile," kǫstr "pile," kasta "to throw, fling" (see cast entry 1).


Middle English gesten "to recite romances," derivative of geste "chivalric romance, tale" — more at jest entry 1

First Known Use


circa 1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1553, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of jest was circa 1548

Dictionary Entries Near jest

Cite this Entry

“Jest.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



: a comic act or remark : joke
: a playful mood or manner
spoken in jest
jest verb

More from Merriam-Webster on jest

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.