How is a Daffynition Word Used?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

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
  • Wiley's Dictionary
    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 conist of

    asset, a small donkey

    detour, what you take to de museum

    hackneyed, why Joe Namath had to get out of football
    (Richard Lederer, Get Thee to a Punnery: An Anthology of Intentional Assaults Upon the English Language. Gibbs Smith, 2006)
  • The Daffynition Game
    "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.'"
    (Tony Augarde, The Oxford A to Z of Word Games. Oxford University Press,1994)