Pun: Definition and Examples of Pun in Speech and Literature

When listening to an English conversation, you are very likely to come across the use of a pun at one time or another. This is also the case with written text in the English language. The pun is a common form of figure of speech, but what is it used for and how can it be integrated into our daily conversations? In this article, we will be looking at what a pun is and how it is used as well as looking at some examples of puns in everyday speech and within literature.


Pun Definition

A pun is usually described as a play on words. It is a clever, witty form of figurative language which uses the words within a sentence to convey another meaning. The pun is often used in the form of a joke where words can have more than one meaning or words can sound like they mean something else.

Pun’s are often used in day to day conversation in order to add a sort of complex humour to a statement or situation. They are also used as a literary device, in this case they are also used for a humorous effect but can also be used in order to encourage the reader to think differently about the situation at hand.

Pun Examples

Examples of Pun in Spoken Language

The pun is something which can be heard often within day to day conversation in the English language. We are now going to take a look at some examples of common puns which are likely to be heard in a spoken context.

  • Why is John Milton a bad game rival? Because when he is there, there is a pair of dice lost. (Paradise lost.) Paradise lost is a famous work written by John Milton.
  • The helpers of Santa are known as subordinate clauses.
  • A boiled egg for lunch is hard to beat.
  • She had a photographic memory but she didn’t develop it.
  • The two pianists who got married were well suited since they were always in a chord.
  • I didn’t understand how lightening worked, but all of a sudden, it struck me.
  • The grammar lover had a lot of comma sense.
  • What is the favourite car of a chicken? A coupe.
  • I go to the dentist so often that I really know the drill.
  • The chicken who crossed the road is poultry in motion.
  • How do they party on a construction site? They raise the roof.
  • Returning new clothes is like post traumatic dress syndrome.
  • Why can’t the bike stand alone? Because it is two tired.
  • My dog wears his coat in the winter but in the summer he wears a coat and pants.
  • What happened to the skunk who fell in the ocean? He stank to the bottom.
  • Fish are smart because they live in a school.
  • The stock clerk was taking up all the space, he was being shelfish.
  • What type of clothes does a cloud have? Thunderwear.
  • I do like children, but I don’t think I could eat an entire one.
  • What an emotional wedding, the cake was even in tiers.

Examples of Pun as A Literary Device

As we mentioned previously, the pun is often used within literature in order to add humour or a new way of thinking for the reader. We are now going to take a look at some examples of when puns have been used in a literary sense.

  • Comedian George Carlin wrote the pun into his routine which reads ‘atheism is a non prophet organisation.’
  • In the Holy Bible we can see many examples of pun, one example of this is a line spoken by Jesus Christ which says ‘I will build my church on this rock‘ He was referring to his disciple Peter, as the rock.
  • Another example of a pun from the Holy Bible can be found in the book of Judges, this reads ‘the rode thirty burros and lived in thirty boroughs.’
  • William Shakespeare was famous for regularly using puns in his work, one example of this is in the play Two gentlemen of Verona where he confuses the use of the words tide and tied. ‘You will lose the tide if you wait any more.’ ‘It does not matter if the tied is lost for it is the most unkind tied that any man ever tied.’
  • In the book, Ulysses, written by James Joyce, we can see an example of pun in the lines ‘If you see Kay, tell him that he may, see you in tea, tell him from me.’ In this case, the words also sound like letters which spell out a profanity.
  • In the poem ‘With a book’ written by Ambrose Bierce, the writer creates a pun surrounding the name of Robert Browning in which he says ‘there is nothing more strange than a Browning, except a Blackling.’
  • In the adventures of Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, the use of the words tail and tale are confused in order to create a pun, the line reads ‘ “it is a long and sad tale that I have.” said the mouse, looking at Alice and sighing. “it certainly is a long tail.” said Alice, looking at the tail of the mouse. “but why do you say it is sad?” ‘
  • In the play ‘The importance of being Earnest’ we see an example of a pun which uses the word Earnest to mean a name and also an adjective meaning sincere. The line reads ‘I have finally realised, for the very first time, the very importance of being Earnest.’


By looking deeper into the meaning of pun and how it can be used, we have discovered that a pun is a play on words in which the words within a statement are used for humorous effect. This type of figure of speech can be used in both a spoken conversation and within written works such as poetry, fiction and scripts. When a pun is used in literature it can often encourage the reader to think about the sentence in a new light.

Pun Infographic


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