The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is repartee. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.
What It Means
Repartee can refer to either “a conversation in which clever statements and replies are made quickly” or a single “quick and witty reply.” It can also refer to one’s cleverness and wit in conversation, as in “an aunt widely known for her repartee at family gatherings.”
// The twins’ repartee at the back of the class always cracked up their classmates, though their teacher was rarely amused.
REPARTEE in Context
“The language of the play moves between the vernacular and the elevated, informed by the repartee of TV sitcoms as well as by the poetry of William Blake.” — Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 19 June 2022
Did You Know?
Dorothy Parker was known for her repartee. Upon hearing that former president Calvin Coolidge had died, the poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and critic—famous for her acerbic wit—replied, “How can they tell?” The taciturn Coolidge, aka “Silent Cal,” obviously didn’t have a reputation for being the life of the party, but he could be counted on for the occasional bon mot, as when a Washington, D.C., hostess told him, “You must talk to me, Mr. President. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you,” and he replied, “You lose.” Repartee, our word for a quick, sharp reply (and for skill with such replies) comes from the French repartie, of the same meaning. Repartie itself is formed from the French verb repartir, meaning “to retort.”
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