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From in (having familiarity or involvement with somebody, adjective) + joke.[1]



in-joke (plural in-jokes)

  1. Synonym of inside joke (a joke that is understood or meant to be understood only by certain people who are aware of the details)
    Synonym: private joke
    Well, it’s a bit of an in-joke, but Fred has been going to start that diet “tomorrow” for the last few months.
    We have an in-joke; whenever someone sings a wrong note, they wipe the mistake off their music with an obvious gesture.
    • 2018 November 14, Jesse Hassenger, “Disney Goes Viral with an Ambitious, Overstuffed Wreck-It Ralph Sequel”, in The A.V. Club[1], archived from the original on 21 November 2019:
      Intentionally or not, the movie [Ralph Breaks the Internet] makes Disney feel as enormous as the internet itself, containing a series of micro-targeted idiosyncrasies and in-jokes that are nonetheless controlled by a cultural monolith (whether that's Disney or whatever massive corporation owns your local ISP).

Usage notes[edit]

An in-joke can carry the connotation of being slightly sinister, particularly if the subject of the humour is unaware that people find it funny. However in situations where everyone involved is in the in group, they are harmless – if slightly confusing to anyone not party to the joke.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ in-joke, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Further reading[edit]