What is a Pun? 7 Examples in literature

Definition of Pun

The ‘Pun’ in a play is used for different word meanings and is rarely used except for jokes. It has identical sounds of words with different meanings seldom used to create ambiguity and to indicate a negative aspect of character; however, primarily to create a humorous and comic effect.

Puns have purposeful literary uses, but since the eighteen century, this literary form has been used mainly to create a humorous effect in a story. Using Puns in work, writers used to play with words to create amusement.

Originated from the Italian word “puntigilio” in 1664.

Examples of Pun:

  • Bear ……  bare
  • Soul …… sole
  • Dear …… deer
  • Hart  ……  heart
  • Letter …… later
  • Farm …… form

Pun Examples in Sentences

  • The tallest building in town is the library, it has thousands of story.
  • Why do amphibians take the bus? Because their cars always getting toad.
  • He jumped in to the river to know its depth.
  • He drank five bottles of cold drink to check its taste.
  • He always trusts the lament man because he has no sense to deceive.
  • He always comes first in the class because of his mischievous.
  • A teacher trains the mind, a driver mind the train.
  • A motor bike can’t stand on it’s own because it is two tired.
  • You were right, so I left.
  • Always trust a glue shopkeeper. They tend to stick his words.
  • The population of United Kingdom is always Dublin.
  • His brother is thin and smart like a stick.
  • The elephant’s trunk is safe place to oscillate.
  • This boy has long legs so he can walk ten hours daily.

See also: Puns About Birds

Functions of Pun

  • Pun is used like allusions to make strong connection with the audience.
  • Elaborate the theme of the story
  • Human behaviours are also analyzed by using Puns.

How to use Pun?

  • To detect ‘Pun’ reader has to actively read the story
  • Background knowledge is also important to understand Pun
  • By utilizing background knowledge and vocabulary reader can easily detect Puns in the story.

Authors who used Puns

Authors of different genres used Puns in their work. Writers like Shakespeare, Chaucer, James Joyceand comedians largely used Puns in their literary work.

Examples of Puns in Literature

The use of Pun in many literature’s is wide spread, mostly used to create humor and to amuse the readers or to point out some serious issue by concealing the real meaning.


“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

“It is a long and sad tale that I have,” said the mouse, Looking at Alice and sighing.  It is certainly a long tail, said Alice, looking at the tail of the mouse. “But why you say that it is sad?”

Alice displays a norm for Carroll’s witty writing style. When the Mouse informs that his portrait covers a “long and sad story”, Alice draws attention to his long tail by saying a “long tail”. 

As a matter of fact, this pun contributes, to the dialogue not only with a typical humoristic color but as a whole illustrates the pervasive theme in the novel – linguistics. 

Alice’s mistrust, whether she is pretending or is making a genuine misinterpretation, is an indicator of Lewis Carroll’s theme of mistaken or literal-minded interpretation of what she actually says, which she repeatedly does throughout her Adventure into Wonderland, in order to create the comic effect of misinterpretation of language and absurdity among her interactions with other characters. 

Furthermore, Alice’s query on what made the story be sad, at the same time facilitates humor in this scenario as it seems to her more like a matter of wordplay rather than Mouse’s feelings or the overall content of the one who is telling the story.


“Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare

“Ask for me tomorrow, and you sha’l find me a grave man.”

Mercutio, after being fatally wounded, tells his friends, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” The pun here lies in the double meaning of “grave.”

On one hand, grave refers to serious or somber, which is ironic since Mercutio is known for his wit and humor. On the other hand, grave literally refers to a burial place. It alludes to his impending death.

This use of satire adds a layer of dark humor to the scene, which emphasizes Mercutio’s tragic fate while maintaining his characteristic playfulness even in his final moments.


“Cymbeline” by Shakespeare

The form of Pun known aasteismus, has been used in the play. When there occurs a dialogue between Cloten and Lord.

Cloten: Would he had been one of my rank? Lord: To have smelled like a fool.

Here the ‘Lord’ is making fun upon the cloten and says, that ‘cloten’ has no wit and he is a fool.


The importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

“I have realized for the first time in my life the vital importance of being earnest”

The writer cleverly employs a pun to shorten the medial theme of the play. In the aforesaid excerpt, the use of word earnest contains the dual meaning. On one hand, earnest refers to the personal quality of sincerity and seriousness.

On the other hand, it refers to Jack’s (character in the play) pseudonym “Ernest” which he uses throughout the play. The pun highlights the comics confusion and identity mishaps that drive the plot. It also critiques the societal norms over authenticity.

The use of the pun by the writer emphasizes the satire of social conventions and the absurdities of maintaining appearances.


“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

“They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they fail’d to point the conversation to me, every now and then and stick the poin’t into me”. Here in the above lines, the word ‘point’ has been as Pun.

The word “point” employs a dual meaning that turned out to be more humorous and decipherable to the sentence. The speaker feels that others are using every chance in the conversation to focus attention on them (“point the conversation to me”) and to make sharp or critical comments (“stick the point into me”).

The first use of “point” relates to directing or guiding something, like a conversation. The first use of “point” means “detail” something for example, a conversation. This notion combines a figurative and literal description as if to say that the comments were beyond hurtful and were more like abuses or a severe wound. This skillful union intelligibly shows that an audience do both avert reactions and scrutiny at the time.


“With a Book” by Ambrose Bierce

“Words  shouting, singing, smiling, frowning Sense lacking, Ah, nothing more obscure than Browning Save blacking.”

The paragraph tries to convey the idea that Robert Browning`s poetry is difficult and complex to understand. The speaker furnishes that the words like “kindness, humor, joy, sadness, sorrow, frustration and so many more,” signify that how language is full of emotions as well as being conveying different feelings. 

Here the pun “black” invokes the image of blacking shoes, a potent metaphor for the unwavering and ever-present skin color. Through a comparison of Browning’s poems with blacking as a metaphorically dense but nontransparent thing, the speaker hides her inability to grasp the intended meaning of Browning’s work drawing on the pun to make us realize the absurdity of her difficult task.

Examples of Pun in Literature
Examples of Pun in Literature

Difference between Pun and Metaphor

The two terms ‘Pun’ and ‘metaphor’ are sometimes confusing with each other. However, there is difference between them.

‘Metaphor’ is a word or phrase which is used to show similarity between the two but that does not directly relates, however by the use of ‘like’ and ‘as’  we show the common thing.

‘Pun’ is the use of words or phrase which directly relates to the other. In ‘Pun’ the sound of words are same but their meanings are different.

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