1670s as verb, 1680s as noun. The origin is unknown, possibly from London street slang;[1] ostensibly as *bant + -er ((frequentative)). 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.
    • 1925-29, Mahadev Desai (translator), M.K. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part I, chapter xviii[1]:
      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.
    Synonyms: pleasantry, raillery
    • 2007, Evelyn M. Field, Bully Blocking, page 17:
      This bullying continuum illustrates the progressive escalation from harmless banter to bullying and criminal behaviours.



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.
    • (Can we date this quote by Washington Irving and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Hag-ridden by my own fancy all night, and then bantered on my haggard looks the next day.
    • 1849, Charlotte Brontë, Shirley
      Mr. Sweeting was bantered about his stature—he was a little man, a mere boy in height and breadth compared with the athletic Malone []
  4. (transitive) To joke about; to ridicule (a trait, habit, etc.).
    • (Can we date this quote by Chatham and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      If they banter your regularity, order, and love of study, banter in return their neglect of them.
  5. (transitive) To delude or trick; to play a prank upon.
    • (Can we date this quote by Daniel Defoe and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      We diverted ourselves with bantering several poor scholars with hopes of being at least his lordship's chaplain.
  6. (transitive, US, Southern and Western, colloquial) To challenge to a match.



Derived terms


  1. ^ banter” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.

Further reading