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From Middle English japen (to joke, play tricks), of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Old French japer (to bark, howl, scream) (possibly conflated with Old French gaber (to mock, deride), see gab), related to Old Occitan japar, jaupar (to bark, yelp, yap), probably of Germanic origin, related to Old Saxon galpōn (to cry loudly, make a noise, brag) (Low German galpen (to bark, howl, scream)), Middle High German gelpfen (to scream, bark, boast, proclaim), Old Norse gjálpa (to yelp) (Swedish dialectal galpa (to cry, screech)). More at yelp, yawp, yap.


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jape (plural japes)

  1. A joke or quip.
    • c. 1390, Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Pardoner's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales:
      "Thou bel ami, thou Pardoner," he said,
      "Tell us some mirth of japes right anon."
    • 1920, Jeffery Farnol, The Geste of Duke Jocelyn, Fytte 9:
      [H]e clapped hand to thigh, and laughed and laughed until the air rang again.
      "Oho, a jape—a jape indeed!" he roared.


Derived terms[edit]



jape (third-person singular simple present japes, present participle japing, simple past and past participle japed)

  1. (intransitive) To jest; play tricks; joke.
    • 1886, Andrew Lang, "To Sir John Manndeville" in Letters to Dead Authors:
      Now the Lond of Egypt longeth to the Soudan, yet the Soudan longeth not to the Lond of Egypt. And when I say this, I do jape with words, and may hap ye understond me not.
  2. (transitive) To mock; deride; gibe; trick; befool.