Intermediate+ Word of the Day: banter

banter (noun, verb) /ˈbæntɚ/ LISTEN

Banter is a noun and a verb. The noun refers to playful teasing or joking between people, and the verb means to playfully joke with someone.

  • The couple's banter made it clear that they shared a sense of humor.
  • The receptionist bantered with the customers, making them laugh.

Words often used with banter

Banter often follows the adjective witty, which means “clever.” For example: “Martin is known for his witty banter with his coworkers. Everyone thinks he’s funny.” “Good-natured banter” is especially friendly.

In pop culture

Banter within specific groups of people will often involve slang that is particular to those groups and may be difficult for others to understand. Sometimes, even people within the group may struggle, as you can see in this sketch on RAF wartime banter from Monty Python:

Commonly confused with

Tease is a similar word but is slightly different. To tease someone is to make fun of that person and can be friendly or unfriendly, unlike banter, which is friendly. The other difference is that to banter usually requires two people. You banter with someone, which means that both people are participating in the teasing.

Did you know?

Originally, banter was used to mean “aggressively tease,” but over time it has taken on a more light-hearted meaning and now is used only to refer to good-natured teasing and joking.

Origin

Banter, meaning ‘to attack with good-humored jests and jokes,’ dates back to the mid-17th century. Its origin is uncertain, though some linguists believe it started as London slang. The noun, meaning ‘good humored joking,’ first appeared in the late 17th century.

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