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1670s as verb, 1680s as noun. The origin is unknown, possibly from London street slang;[1] ostensibly as *bant + -er ((frequentative)). Possibly an Anglo-Gaelicism from the Irish bean (woman), so that "banter" means "talk of women."



banter (uncountable)

  1. Good-humoured, playful, typically spontaneous conversation.
    • 2007, Evelyn M. Field, Bully Blocking, page 17:
      This bullying continuum illustrates the progressive escalation from harmless banter to bullying and criminal behaviours.



banter (third-person singular simple present banters, present participle bantering, simple past and past participle bantered)

  1. (intransitive) To engage in banter or playful conversation.
  2. (intransitive) To play or do something amusing.
  3. (transitive) To tease (someone) mildly.
    • Washington Irving
      Hag-ridden by my own fancy all night, and then bantered on my haggard looks the next day.
    • Charlotte Brontë
      Mr. Sweeting was bantered about his stature—he was a little man, a mere boy in height and breadth compared with the athletic Malone []
  4. (transitive) To joke about; to ridicule (a trait, habit, etc.).
    • Chatham
      If they banter your regularity, order, and love of study, banter in return their neglect of them.
  5. (transitive) To delude or trick; to play a prank upon.
    • Daniel De Foe
      We diverted ourselves with bantering several poor scholars with hopes of being at least his lordship's chaplain.
  6. (transitive, US, Southern and Western, colloquial) To challenge to a match.



Derived terms


  1. ^ banter” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.

Further reading