Word of the Day


© Alamy Stock Photo
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a joke or clever remark that upsets or annoys you

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun wisecrack is formed from the adjective ‘wise’ and the noun ‘crack’. It was originally used in American English and is first recorded in the early 20th century. The verb came a few decades later.


A ‘crack’ is defined in Macmillan Dictionary as ‘a rude or insulting joke’, and a wisecrack is one of these with an added element of cleverness or wit, as in the expression wise guy. Wisecrack started life in American English and was originally an open or hyphenated compound. Wisecracking was originally associated with a type of humour that was thought of as specifically American; the style of stand-up comedians who rap out a succession of one-liners, or of classic Hollywood comedies in which characters exchange quick-fire witticisms. The term also brings to mind  ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’, a fast-moving TV comedy show from the 60s and 70s that alternated sketches featuring stock characters with music and jokes. A more recent example of a wisecracking character is the Genie played by Robin Williams in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ or Mike Wazowski, the rotund monster played by Billy Crystal in ‘Monsters, Inc.’ who makes up in wit for what he lacks in scariness.


It would be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wisecrack.
(Katharine Hepburn in ‘Stage Door’)

Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.
(Mae West)

Related words

witticism, one-liner, crack

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment