Alternative formsEdit


From Middle English laughen, laghen, from Old English (Anglian) hlæhhan, hlehhan, (West Saxon) hliehhan, from Proto-Germanic *hlahjaną, from Proto-Indo-European *klók-ye.


A man laughing


laugh (plural laughs)

  1. An expression of mirth particular to the human species; the sound heard in laughing; laughter.
    • 1803, Oliver Goldsmith, The Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith, M.B.: With an Account of His Life, page 45:
      And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind.
    • 1869, F. W. Robertson, Lectures and Addresses on Literary and Social Topics, page 87:
      That man is a bad man who has not within him the power of a hearty laugh.
  2. Something that provokes mirth or scorn.
    • 1921, Ring Lardner, The Big Town: How I and the Mrs. Go to New York to See Life and Get Katie a Husband, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, page 73:
      “And this rug,” he says, stomping on an old rag carpet. “How much do you suppose that cost?” ¶ It was my first guess, so I said fifty dollars. ¶ “That’s a laugh,” he said. “I paid two thousand for that rug.”
    • 1979, Monty Python, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
      Life's a piece of shit / When you look at it / Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
  3. (Britain) A fun person.
    • 2010, The Times, March 14, 2010, Tamzin Outhwaite, the unlikely musical star
      Outhwaite is a good laugh, yes, she knows how to smile: but deep down, she really is strong and stern.


Derived termsEdit



laugh (third-person singular simple present laughs, present participle laughing, simple past and past participle laughed)

  1. (intransitive) To show mirth, satisfaction, or derision, by peculiar movement of the muscles of the face, particularly of the mouth, causing a lighting up of the face and eyes, and usually accompanied by the emission of explosive or chuckling sounds from the chest and throat; to indulge in laughter.
    • c. 1602, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, act I, scene ii:
      But there was such laughing! Queen Hecuba laugh'd that her eyes ran o'er.
    • 1899, Stephen Crane, Twelve O'Clock
      The roars of laughter which greeted his proclamation were of two qualities; some men laughing because they knew all about cuckoo-clocks, and other men laughing because they had concluded that the eccentric Jake had been victimised by some wise child of civilisation.
    • 1979, Monty Python, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
      If life seems jolly rotten / There's something you've forgotten / And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete, figuratively) To be or appear cheerful, pleasant, mirthful, lively, or brilliant; to sparkle; to sport.
    • 1693, John Dryden, "Of the Pythagorean Philosophy", from the 15th book of Ovid's Metamorphoses
      Then laughs the childish year, with flowerets crowned []
    • 1734, Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Chapter 3
      In Folly’s cup ſtill laughs the bubble Joy.
  3. (intransitive, followed by "at") To make an object of laughter or ridicule; to make fun of; to deride; to mock.
    • 1731-1735, Alexander Pope, Moral Essays
      No wit to flatter left of all his store, No fool to laugh at, which he valu'd more.
    • 1890, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 3
      There was something about him, Harry, that amused me. He was such a monster. You will laugh at me, I know, but I really went in and paid a whole guinea for the stage-box. To the present day I can't make out why I did so; and yet if I hadn't! – my dear Harry, if I hadn't, I would have missed the greatest romance of my life. I see you are laughing. It is horrid of you!"
    • 1967, The Beatles, Penny Lane
      On the corner is a banker with a motorcar / The little children laugh at him behind his back
  4. (transitive) To affect or influence by means of laughter or ridicule.
  5. (transitive) To express by, or utter with, laughter.
    • 1602, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, act I, scene iii:
      From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause.
    • 1866, Louisa May Alcott, Behind A Mask or, A Woman's Power; Chapter 8
      Fairfax addressed her as "my lady," she laughed her musical laugh, and glanced up at a picture of Gerald with eyes full of exultation.
    • 1906, Jack London, Moon-Face
      "You refuse to take me seriously," Lute said, when she had laughed her appreciation. "How can I take that Planchette rigmarole seriously?"

Usage notesEdit

The simple past tense forms laught, laugh'd and low and the past participles laught, laugh'd and laughen also exist, but are obsolete.



  • (show mirth by peculiar movement of the muscles of the face): cry, weep

Coordinate termsEdit

  • (show mirth by peculiar movement of the muscles of the face): cry

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Note: the following were in a translation table for "be or appear gay", which, given the modern meanings, is misleading; the title of this table has now been changed to "be or appear cheerful". The translations therefore need to be checked.

See alsoEdit