Printable Version
Pronunciation: riz-ê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Laughable, humorous, causing laughter. 2. Easily amused, easily made to laugh, given to laughter.

Notes: We should keep in mind three things at all times. (1) Human beings are the only risible creatures, the only species that laughs. (2) We begin when we are only 3-4 months old. (3) It has now been scientifically established that the more we laugh, the longer and healthier lives we live. The adverb for today's word is risibly and the noun, risibility.

In Play: Today's Good Word goes two ways: it means to make people laugh or laugh a lot ourselves. In the first sense, we may say, "Oh, that risible Irish darling Beryl O'Laughs keeps everyone in stitches all the time." This sense also applies to objects: "That electric fork was the most risible idea you have ever come up with." The alternate sense works in: "I am afraid that I am entirely too risible to follow the US primary campaigns this year."

Word History: Risible is another word picked up from French. The French inherited it from Latin risibilis, the adjective of risus "laughed", the past participle of ridere "to laugh." This root did not spread evenly throughout the Indo-European languages. It shows up in Sanskrit vridyati "is ashamed". Otherwise, it seems limited to the Romance languages, where we find Spanish risible, Italian risibile, and Portuguese risível. The root does turn up in a few other English words borrowed from Latin, including ridiculous, deride, and riant "merry, jovial". (Today we need to thank the good humor and risible minds of Mark Bailey and Jan Arps for this very happy Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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