How is a Daffynition Word Used?

Daffynitions are collected in The New Uxbridge English Dictionary by Jon Naismith (HarperCollins, 2008).

Daffynition is an informal term for a playful reinterpretation of an existing word--usually a pun.

The term daffynition (a blend of the words daffy and definition) was popularized by the panelists on the comedy program I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, which has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service since 1972. For the past 60 years, daffynitions have also appeared in the magazine Boy's Life.

Examples and Observations

Making up daffynitions (which are then collected in the Uxbridge English Dictionary) is a game played on the BBC Radio 4 comedy quiz show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Here are some examples from the program:

  • antelope, to run off with your mother’s sister
  • boomerang, what you say to frighten a meringue
  • brouhaha, a jolly tea party
  • Carmelite, a half-hearted Buddhist
  • coffee, someone who is coughed upon
  • crackerjack, a device for lifting biscuits
  • diphthong, to wash an undergarment
  • extent, formerly a canvas home
  • fecund, the one before fird
  • gladiator, an unrepentant cannibal
  • ho-hum, the sound made by a vibrating garden tool
  • ignorant, to totally disregard an insect
  • Jihad, the cry of a Fundamentalist cowboy
  • kindred, fear of one's own family
  • locus, to curse quietly
  • maximum, a very large mother
  • melancholy, a strangely shaped dog
  • negligent, a man who wears lingerie
  • oasis, a poker player's cry of delight
  • pasteurize, too far to see
  • posthumous, the art of delivering Greek food by mail
  • reincarnation, to be born again as a tin of condensed milk
  • relief, what trees do in spring
  • scandal, footwear you should be ashamed of
  • sentiment, the perfume he intended to buy
  • shingle, Sean Connery's definition of a bachelor
  • testicle, an amusing exam question
  • trampoline, a cleansing fluid for tramps
  • vigilante, a very observant aunt.
  • whisky, a bit like a whisk
  • zebra, the largest size of support garment

Richard Lederer: Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic strip B.C., has long been a master of the daffynition. Part of the prehistorically contemporary humor of B.C. are the installments that feature Wiley's Dictionary: abomination, what a well-allocated nuclear arsenal should consist of:

  • asset, a small donkey
  • detour, what you take to de museum
  • hackneyed, why Joe Namath had to get out of football

Tony Augarde: Players choose (or are given) words for which they have to make humorous definitions. Often the definitions will use a pun (as in 'boomerang: what you say to frighten a meringue' or 'carrion: British comedy films') but sometimes they will be witty (as in 'alone: in bad company,' or 'cannibal: someone who goes to a restaurant and orders the waiter.'