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The 12 Funniest Words in the English Language, Based on Science

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 28 November 2017
A recent study of nearly 5,000 words in the English language found that “booty” and “twerp” will make most people laugh out loud, while words like “torture” and “war” are universally not-so-funny.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, looked at surveys from over 800 online volunteers. The volunteers were asked to rate randomly selected words on a scale of 1 (humorless) to 5 (humorous).

Of note from the findings: men and women tend to find different words funny. For men, sexual words like “orgy” and “bondage” were considered funny. Men also rated “birthmark,” “brand,” “chauffeur,” “doze,” “buzzard,” “czar,” “weld,” “prod,” “corn” and “racoon” higher on the humor scale. Women, on the other hand, rated “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” and “momma” higher on the humor scale.

“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” lead author Tomas Engelthaler, said in a statement. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case.”

And the funniest English words are…

Booty

Tit

Booby

Hooter

Nitwit

Twit

Waddle

Tinkle

Bebop

Egghead

Ass

Twerp

It should be noted that, with a little over 800 participants, this study was relatively small considering the number of native English speakers around the world. However, it does give a dataset for future studies on the subject.

“Humor is an everyday aspect of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations,” Engelthaler said.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out the great pieces in our Explore Your World Through Language campaign.