1670s as verb, 1680s as noun. The origin is unknown, possibly from London street slang;[1] ostensibly as *bant +‎ -er (frequentative suffix). Possibly an Anglo-Gaelicism from the Irish bean (woman), so that "banter" means "talk of women."



banter (uncountable)

  1. Sharp, good-humoured, playful, typically spontaneous conversation.
    Synonyms: pleasantry, raillery
    • 1927–1929, M[ohandas] K[aramchand] Gandhi, chapter XVIII, in The Story of My Experiments with Truth: Translated from the Original in Gujarati, volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), Ahmedabad, Gujarat: Navajivan Press, →OCLC:
      I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Vegetarian Society, and made it a point to attend every one of its meetings, but I always felt tongue-tied. Dr. Oldfield once said to me, 'You talk to me quite all right, but why is it that you never open your lips at a committee meeting? You are a drone.' I appreciated the banter. The bees are ever busy, the drone is a thorough idler.
    • 2007, Evelyn M. Field, Bully Blocking, page 17:
      This bullying continuum illustrates the progressive escalation from harmless banter to bullying and criminal behaviours.
  2. Good-humoured bits of monologue and/or conversational prompts used in any of a wide range of occupations that must frequently interact with the public (for example, store clerks, salespersons, nurses).
    Coordinate terms: chit-chat, small talk, patter, sales pitch

Derived terms



banter (third-person singular simple present banters, present participle bantering, simple past and past participle bantered)

  1. (intransitive) To engage in banter or playful conversation.
  2. (intransitive) To play or do something amusing.
  3. (transitive) To tease (someone) mildly.
    Synonyms: kid, wind up
  4. (transitive) To joke about; to ridicule (a trait, habit, etc.).
  5. (transitive) To delude or trick; to play a prank upon.
  6. (transitive, US, Southern and Western, colloquial) To challenge to a match.
  7. (UK, dialect) To haggle; cheapen the price.

Derived terms



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “banter”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading