When to Use the Helpful Idiom “Play On Words”?

“Play on words” is an idiom that you may hear or see quite often in conversation and writing. If you were thinking this phrase meant to play on a group of words, you have come to the right place to discover otherwise. Here you will find the actual meaning of this idiomatic phrase, along with the information regarding its origin. You will also find some example sentences and conversations so you can see how this phrase is used correctly and learn to use it for yourself. Lastly, you will find some suggestions words or phrases that you can use in place of this phrase that will still allow you to convey the same meaning.

Play On Words

Play On Words Meaning

The phrase “play on words” means to make use of a word in a funny way that has multiple meanings or that sounds like another word but is spelled differently. It is the commonly known form of speech called a pun.

Origin of this idiom

Although there is no specific information regarding the origin of the phrase “play on words,” there is specific origin information concerning the word “pun.” Puns have been used in writing since Ancient Roman times. Some authors of this time, like Plautus for example, became well-known for their usage of these forms of speech. Over the years, the usage of these puns continued to become popular in comedy and general conversation, often to make humorous comparisons.

“Play On Words” Examples

Example Sentences

  • The comedian showed his skills with his well-versed routine that used a lot of play on words.
  • A great example of a pun or play on words is Santa Claus elves are generally referred to as subordinated clauses.
  • The advertising slogan was a play on words.
  • This is a humorous pun, or play on words for hilarious effect.
  • But most of all, children laugh at jokes that are a play on words.

Example Conversations

A conversation between two friends.

  • Friend 1: Sophie is smart but she has an odd way of showing it.
  • Friend 2: You are right. She has a photographic memory but she has never developed it.
  • Friend 1: Funny! Nice way to put it and a great play on words.

A conversation between two office co-workers.

  • Co-worker 1: I have to leave work early today. I have an appointment with the dentist.
  • Co-worker 2: Lucky you!
  • Co-worker 1: It’s not so bad. I have been to the dentist many times so I know the drill.
  • Co-worker 2: That is so punny! (rolls eyes) Nice play on words there, Phil!

Alternatives to “Play On Words”

There are many words or phrases that you can use to substitute for the phrase “play on words” that convey the same meaning. Some of these alternatives include:

  • Wordplay
  • Pun
  • Paronomasia

Play On Words | Picture

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