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Coined in 1564, from Latin levitās (lightness, frivolity), from levis (lightness (in weight)).[1] Cognate to lever, and more distantly, light.





levity (usually uncountable, plural levities)

  1. Lightness of manner or speech, frivolity; lack of appropriate seriousness; inclination to make a joke of serious matters.
  2. (obsolete) Lack of steadiness.
  3. The state or quality of being light, buoyancy.
    • 1925, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, published 1953, →ISBN, →OCLC:
      Most of the confidences were unsought - frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity []
    • 1838, Robert Montgomery Bird, Peter Pilgrim:
      [] it would really seem as if there was something nomadic in our natures, a principle of levity and restlessness []
    • 1869, Mary Somerville, On Molecular and Microscopic Science, 1.1.12:
      Hydrogen [] rises in the air on account of its levity.
  4. (countable) A lighthearted or frivolous act.
    • 1665, Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year[1], Gutenberg:
      For though it be something wonderful to tell that any should have hearts so hardened, in the midst of such a calamity, as to rob and steal, yet certain it is that all sorts of villainies, and even levities and debaucheries, were then practiced in the town as openly as ever: I will not say quite as frequently, because the number of people were many ways lessened.
    • 1872, J. Fenimore Cooper, The Bravo[2]:
      [] or do the people joy less than common in their levities?"
    • 1882, H.D. Traill, Sterne[3]:
      His incorrigible levities had probably lost him the countenance of most of his more serious acquaintances [] .


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Derived terms





  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “levity”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.