AskDefine | Define humorous

Dictionary Definition

humorous adj : full of or characterized by humor; "humorous stories"; "humorous cartoons"; "in a humorous vein" [syn: humourous] [ant: humorless]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • , /ˈhjuːmərəs/, /"hju:m@r@s/



  1. Full of humor or arousing laughter; funny.
    The waiters were so humorous - one even did a backflip for us, when we asked him.
  2. Showing humor; witty, jocular.
  3. Damp or watery.


Related terms

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Humour or humor (see spelling differences) is the tendency of particular images, stories or situations to provoke laughter and provide amusement. Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. Yet, people of all ages and cultures respond to humour and most people share a common sense of humour.
The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which stated that a mix of fluids known as humours (Greek: χυμός, chymos, literally: juice or sap, metaphorically: flavour) controlled human health and emotion.
A sense of humour is the ability to experience humour, although the extent to which an individual will find something humorous depends on a host of variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence, and context. For example, young children may possibly favour slapstick, such as Punch and Judy puppet shows or cartoons (e.g. Tom and Jerry). Satire may rely more on understanding the target of the humour, and thus tends to appeal to more mature audiences. Non-satirical humour can be specifically termed "recreational drollery".

Theories of humour

Modern theory of humour is a multidisciplinary effort combining the insights of humour theorists from various fields including especially philosophers, psychologists, and linguists.

Understanding humour

  • Humour can occur when an alternative or surprising shift in perception or answer is given, that still shows relevance and can explain a situation.
  • Humour can occur when we laugh at something that points out another's errors, lack of intelligence or unfortunate circumstances, granting a sense of superiority.
  • Humour can occur when sudden relief occurs from a tense situation "humourific" as formerly applied in comedy referred to the interpretation of the sublime and the ridiculous. In this context, humour is often a subjective experience as it depends on a special mood or perspective from its audience to be effective. Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of the term (the German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy.
Language can be described as an approximation of thoughts through symbolic manipulation. The gap between the expectations inherent in those symbols and the break of those expectations can generate emotions sometimes expressed through the behavior of laughter. Irony is explicitly this form of comedy, whereas slapstick takes more passive social norms relating to physicality and plays with them. In other words, comedy can be a sign of a 'bug' in the symbolic make-up of language, as well as a self-correcting mechanism for such bugs. Once the problem in meaning has been described through a joke, people immediately begin correcting their impressions of the symbols that have been mocked. This is one explanation why jokes are often funny only when told the first time.
Another explanation is that humour frequently contains an unexpected, often sudden, shift in perspective. Nearly anything can be the object of this perspective twist. This, however is in the areas of human creativity (science and art being the other two) that use structure mapping (then termed "bisociation" by Koestler) to create novel meanings. He argues that humour results when two different frames of reference are set up and a collision is engineered between them.
Tony Veach, who is taking a more formalised computational approach than Koestler did, has written on the role of metaphor and metonymy in humour, using inspiration from Koestler as well as from Dedre Gentner´s theory of structure-mapping, George Lakoff´s and Mark Johnson´s theory of conceptual metaphor and Mark Turner´s and Gilles Fauconnier´s theory of conceptual blending.
Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E. B. White once said that "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Evolution of humour

As with any form of art, the same goes for humour, acceptance depends on social demographics and varies from person to person. Throughout history comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the Western kings or the villages of the far east. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm. 18th-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness."

Humour formulae

Root components: Methods:
Rowan Atkinson explains in his lecture in the documentary "Funny Business", that an object or a person can become funny in three different ways. They are:
  • By being in an unusual place
  • By behaving in an unusual way
  • By being the wrong size
Most sight gags fit into one or more of these categories.
Humour is also sometimes described as an ingredient in spiritual life. Humour is also the act of being funny. Some synonyms of funny or humour are hilarious, knee-slapping, spiritual, wise-minded, outgoing, and amusing. Some Masters have added it to their teachings in various forms. A famous figure in spiritual humour is the laughing Buddha, who would answer all questions with a laugh.

Further reading

  • Dialogic ethics and the virtue of humor (Abstract)
  • Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and ridicule: Towards a social critique of humour. London: Sage. ISBN 1412911435
  • Bricker, Victoria Reifler (Winter, 1980) The Function of Humor in Zinacantan Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 411-418
  • Developing a Typology of Humor in Audiovisual Media (Abstract)
  • Carrell, Amy (2000), Historical views of humour, University of Central Oklahoma. Retrieved on 2007-07-06.
  • A Graphical Humor Ontology for Contemporary Cultural Heritage Access
  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H., et al. (1976) "Humour, Laughter, and Comedy: A Bibliography of Empirical and Nonempirical Analyses in the English Language." It's a Funny Thing, Humour. Ed. Antony J. Chapman and Hugh C. Foot. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 1976. 469-504.
  • Holland, Norman. (1982) "Bibliography of Theories of Humor." Laughing; A Psychology of Humor. Ithaca: Cornell U P, 209-223.
  • Luttazzi, Daniele (2004) Introduction to his Italian translation of Woody Allen's trilogy Side Effects, Without Feathers and Getting Even (Bompiani, 2004, ISBN 88-452-3304-9 (57-65).
  • Martin, Rod A. (2007). The Psychology Of Humour: An Integrative Approach. London, UK: Elsevier Academic Press. ISBN 13: 978-0-12-372564-6
  • McGhee, Paul E. (1984) "Current American Psychological Research on Humor." Jahrbuche fur Internationale Germanistik 16.2: 37-57.
  • Mintz, Lawrence E., ed. (1988) Humor in America: A Research Guide to Genres and Topics. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988. ISBN 0313245517; OCLC: 16085479.
  • Mobbs, D., Greicius, M.D.; Abdel-Azim, E., Menon, V. & Reiss, A. L. (2003) "Humor modulates the mesolimbic reward centers". Neuron, 40, 1041-1048.
  • Nilsen, Don L. F. (1992) "Satire in American Literature." Humor in American Literature: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1992. 543-48.
  • Pogel, Nancy, and Paul P. Somers Jr. (1988) "Literary Humor." Humor in America: A Research Guide to Genres and Topics. Ed. Lawrence E. Mintz. London: Greenwood, 1988. 1-34.
  • Roth, G., Yap, R, & Short, D. (2006). "Examining humour in HRD from theoretical and practical perspectives". Human Resource Development International, 9(1), 121-127.
  • Smuts, Aaron. "Humor". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Laughing At First Contact (Abstract)

External links

humorous in Arabic: دعابة
humorous in Bengali: হাস্যরস
humorous in Bosnian: Humor
humorous in Bulgarian: Хумор
humorous in Catalan: Humor
humorous in Chuvash: Кулăш
humorous in Czech: Humor
humorous in Danish: Humor
humorous in German: Humor
humorous in Estonian: Huumor
humorous in Modern Greek (1453-): Χιούμορ
humorous in Spanish: Humor
humorous in Esperanto: Humuro
humorous in Basque: Umore
humorous in French: Humour
humorous in Galician: Humor
humorous in Armenian: Հումոր
humorous in Croatian: Humor
humorous in Italian: Umorismo
humorous in Hebrew: הומור
humorous in Kannada: ಹಾಸ್ಯ
humorous in Georgian: იუმორი
humorous in Lithuanian: Humoras
humorous in Hungarian: Humor
humorous in Dutch: Humor
humorous in Japanese: ユーモア
humorous in Norwegian: Humor
humorous in Uzbek: Mutoyiba
humorous in Polish: Humor (postać komizmu)
humorous in Portuguese: Humor
humorous in Romanian: Umor
humorous in Russian: Юмор
humorous in Albanian: Humori
humorous in Simple English: Humour
humorous in Slovak: Humor
humorous in Serbian: Хумор
humorous in Serbo-Croatian: Humor
humorous in Finnish: Huumori
humorous in Swedish: Humor
humorous in Tatar: Yumor
humorous in Turkish: Mizah
humorous in Ukrainian: Гумор
humorous in Yiddish: הומאר
humorous in Chinese: 幽默

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