Fun or Funny

Vocabulary | Confusables


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


Certain words in English are so alike that they confuse even native English speakers. Words like their and there for instance are often confused. The Activities here look in detail at some of the most common confusable words and give you plenty of explanation into how to use them correctly as well as plenty of exercises to help you avoid making mistakes in the future. 

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A common mistake that students of English make is the use of the words fun and funny. Both can be used as adjectives, but they are not interchangeable and have some important differences of meaning. Only fun is used as a noun. This lesson will help you to understand the difference between fun and funny and give you some practice to help you better understand the difference. I hope that you find the lesson as much fun to do as I did to make.

From The OED on CD-ROM

fun, n. (fʌn) 

[prob. f. fun v.] 

†1.1 A cheat or trick; a hoax, a practical joke. 

   a 1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Fun, a Cheat or slippery Trick.    1719 D'Urfey Pills (1872) V. 259 A Hackney Coachman he did hug her, And was not this a very good Fun?

2. a.2.a Diversion, amusement, sport; also, boisterous jocularity or gaiety, drollery. Also, a source or cause of amusement or pleasure. 

   (Johnson 1755 stigmatizes it as ‘a low cant word’; in present use it is merely somewhat familiar.) 

   1727 Swift Misc. Epit. By-words, Tho' he talk'd much of virtue, his head always run Upon something or other she found better fun.    1749 Fielding Tom Jones ix. vi, Partridge‥was a great lover of what is called fun.    1751 E. Moore Gil Blas Prol. 25 Don't mind me tho', for all my fun and jokes.    1767 H. Brooke Fool of Qual. I. 99 Vindex‥looked smilingly about him with much fun in his face.    1768–74 Tucker Lt. Nat. (1852) II. 313 It is fun to them to break off an ornament, or disfigure a statue.    1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 144 The mirth and fun grew fast and furious.    1837 Dickens Pickw. ii, ‘What's the fun?’ said a rather tall thin young man.    1845 S. C. Hall Bk. Gems 90 His wit and humour delightful, when it does not degenerate into ‘fun’.    1849 E. E. Napier Excurs. S. Africa II. 331 Being better mounted than the rest of his troop, [he] pushed on to see more of the fun.    1887 Shearman Athletics & Football 325 Most footballers play for the fun and the fun alone.    1889 J. K. Jerome Idle Thoughts 42 There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.    1891 Baring-Gould In Troubadour-Land iv. 50, I do not see the fun of going to hotels of the first class.    1934 Punch 9 May 526/1 A Rector in an unapostolic fury is rather fun.    1954 Economist 20 Mar., His book has all the charm of science fiction; it is enormous fun.    1958 Listener 25 Dec. 1085/1 The clothes were Jacobean, and fun to wear.

b.2.b Phr. to make fun of, poke fun at (a person, etc.): to ridicule. for fun or in fun: as a joke, sportively, not seriously. (he, it is) good, great fun: a source of much amusement. like fun: energetically, very quickly, vigorously. what fun! how very amusing! for the fun of the thing: for amusement; to have fun (with): to enjoy (a process); spec. to have sexual intercourse. 

   1737 H. Walpole Corr. (1820) I. 17, I can't help making fun of myself.    1833 C. A. Davis Lett. J. Downing (1834) 24 And began to laugh like fun.    1840 Hood Up Rhine 157 The American‥in a dry way began to poke his fun at the unfortunate traveller.    a 1847 Mrs. Sherwood Lady of Manor III. xxi. 250 Then you won't make fun of me, will you?    1848 Lowell Biglow P. Ser. i. iv. 98 Stickin' together like fun.    1848 Mrs. Gaskell Mary Barton I. v. 73 Carsons' mill is blazing away like fun.    1849 Lytton Caxtons 19 You would be very sorry if your mamma were to‥break it for fun.    1857 Hughes Tom Brown ii. iii, The bolts went to like fun.    1860 Gen. P. Thompson Audi Alt. III. cxxvi. 82 Who knows but Volunteer Rifles may make a campaign in the Holy Land, and mount guard over the production of the holy fire at Easter? ‘What fun!’    1875 Jowett Plato (ed. 2) I. 151 He may pretend in fun that he has a bad memory.    1877 M. M. Grant Sun-Maid iii, The races are great fun.    1877 Independent 19 July 15/2 Little Tad commissioned lieutenant by Stanton, ‘just for the fun of the thing’.    1891 N. Gould Double Event 1 He's such good fun, and he's so obliging.    1893 Farmer & Henley Slang III. 86/2 To have (or do) a bit of fun, to procure or enjoy the sexual favour.    1895 H. A. Kennedy in 19th Cent. Aug. 331, I suppose the wood-carver was poking fun at him?    1903 Beerbohm Around Theatres (1924) I. 425 Amateur mimes‥go in for private theatricals‥just for the fun of the thing.    1958 Times Lit. Suppl. 7 Feb. 73/4 The clerks‥get their own back by unmasking frauds and‥having fun with the low standard of French commercial honesty.    1961 M. Dickens Heart of London ii. 198 Ambrosia had pushed Edgar and the girl in there with the admonition to have some fun, dears.

c.2.c Exciting goings-on. Also fun and games, freq. used ironically; spec. amatory play. colloq. 

   1879 [see Chinkey, etc.].    1897 Daily News 13 Sept. 7/1 The engineer officers who are engaged in carrying out some of the Sirdar's plans get much more than their fair share of ‘the fun’.    1898 Westm. Gaz. 28 Oct. 3/1 It is possible that there may be rare fun by-and-by on the Nile.    1920 ‘Sapper’ Bull-Dog Drummond vi. 155 We've had lots of fun and games since I last saw you.    1940 N. Mitford Pigeon Pie iii. 66 Farther on, however, you come to jolly fun and games—great notices.    1948 Partridge Dict. Forces' Slang 78 Fun and games, any sort of brush with the enemy at sea.    1948 ‘N. Shute’ No Highway iii. 70 ‘Fun and games,’ he said. ‘The boffin's going mad.’    1952 E. Grierson Reputation for Song xxix. 260 Beneath the orderly conduct of her bar there was always present the possibility of ‘fun and games’.    1954 C. Armstrong Better to Eat You ii. 22 If it happened because somebody is having fun-and-games with Miss Sarah Shepherd, somebody is going to be sorry.    1966 J. Porter Sour Cream v. 59, I headed the car in the direction of the coast road. We had the usual fun and games with the local drivers.    1970 Globe & Mail (Toronto) 26 Sept. B3/3 Mr. Brown also expects the fun and games of tax haven subsidiaries to disappear with the new legislation.

3. a.3.a Comb., as fun-loving adj. Also attrib., passing into adj. with the sense ‘amusing, entertaining, enjoyable’. 

   1775 Pratt Liberal Opin. (1783) II. 119 This fun-loving Alicia.    a 1846 B. R. Haydon Autobiogr. (1927) iii. xvii. 358 There was a room at Holly House called the ‘fun-room’, without chair or table. It was for dancing and romping.    1853 N. P. Willis (title) Fun jottings; or, Laughs I have taken pen to.    1892 Daily News 14 July 5/1 A fun-loving, jolly, prankish elf of a woman.    1908 Daily Chron. 26 Dec. 4/4 The side⁓show is blossoming out again at all points of the compass in ‘fun towns’ and the like.    1959 J. Osborne World of Paul Slickey i. vii. 61 You'll always be a Fun Person.    1962 Sat. Even. Post 13 Oct. 69 Some fur coats are, however, just for fun. The ‘fun fur’ coat has given a big boost to the industry.    1962 Sunday Express 16 Dec. 18/5 Nowadays you can't rustle up enough fun people for a small party any more.    1965 New Statesman 7 May 712/3 Millions have sampled the delights of St Tropez and St Moritz and a lot more of the so-called ‘fun places’ for themselves.    1965 Punch 18 Aug. 254/3 The cheap ‘fun furs’ acclaimed as so young and amusing.    1968 A. Diment Bang Bang Birds x. 186, I was remembering Marianne and the fun times we have had.    1968 J. Ironside Fashion Alphabet 151 The young have taken to ‘fun’ furs which may be rabbit dyed to any colour under the sun.    1969 Listener 13 Feb. 221/3 Much better to give St Katharine Docks to Joan Littlewood for a fun palace.    1971 New Yorker 8 May 107 We have the Osborns, the Beals, the Hartungs, the Falmers, and us. Now let's think of someone fun.

b.3.b Special comb., as fun fair, a fair (or that part of a fair) which is devoted to amusements and side-shows; funfest [fest] chiefly U.S., a gathering for the purposes of amusement; fun-maker, a comedian, humorist, jester; fun run orig. U.S., an organized and largely uncompetitive long-distance run, esp. characterized by the mass participation of occasional (often sponsored) runners; also fun runner, one who takes part in a long-distance run for fun, rather than competitively; fun running. 

   1925 A. Huxley Those Barren Leaves ii. iii. 106, I cannot claim to bring every attraction of the Fun Fair into your place of labour—only the switchback, the water⁓shoot and the mountain railway.    1951 A. Baron Rosie Hogarth 16 Fun fairs discharge their screech and blare upon the passer-by.    1955 Times 18 July 5/3 The fun fair at the Festival Gardens, Battersea, opened bashfully‥for its first Sunday session yesterday. There was no music. Nor was there any beer.

   1918 in Dialect Notes V. 11 (headline) Lincoln High invites to fun-fest.    1922 S. Lewis Babbitt xiii. 172 You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest.    1962 J. D. MacDonald Key to Suite x. 140 The convention‥wasn't‥a fun-fest, a week of broads and bottles.    1963 Punch 4 Dec. 803/1 A riotous funfest.

   1904 Daily Chron. 12 Nov. 5/6 Mr. James Welch to be Prominent Fun-maker at Drury Lane.    1906 R. L. Ramsay Skelton's Magnyf. p. xcvii, The two fun-makers of the morality are the brothers Fancy and Folly.    1936 Variety 15 July 14/2 At last those three ace fun makers‥get a chance to go to town in a big time laugh hit of their own.

   1976 Runner's World Mar. 11/1 Fun running is about to take off nationwide.‥ The following cities and towns report having events of the *Fun Run type,—in brief, regularly scheduled, timed runs over accurate courses.    1977 Sunday Times 23 Oct. 29/6 Coming: Report of a Fun Run for everyone. It starts from Gateshead Stadium next Saturday, and Brendan Foster hopes to popularise this American mass participation idea.    1980 Sunday Times 23 Mar. 28/1 The £11,700 raised for the British Heart Foundation by last year's *fun runners will support‥an important study which is attempting to establish blood-pressure patterns in infants.    1985 Athletics Today Dec. 26/1, I was really about 50th overall, but I did win the Fun Run.‥ The Mansfield Half Marathon consists of two races at once—one for affiliated athletes and one for unaffiliated, or Fun Runners.    1986 N.Y. Times 21 Apr. c6/1 Thousands of fun runners and disabled competitors pounded the same rain-soaked course as the stars.

funny, a. and n. pl. (ˈfʌnɪ) 

[f. fun n. + -y1.] 

A.A adj. 

1. a.A.1.a Affording fun, mirth-producing, comical, facetious. 

   1756 W. Toldervy Two Orphans II. 151 Tom Heartley and Richmond said a great many funny things.    1762 Foote Orators i. i, Is it damn'd funny and comical?    1787 Burns Halloween xxviii, Unco tales, an' funnie jokes.    1827 De Quincey Murder Wks. 1862 IV. 22 He became very sociable and funny.    1849 Thackeray Pendennis xiii, Popping in his little funny head.

absol.    1820 Praed Eve of Battle 297 A mixture of the grave and funny.

b.A.1.b funny business, action (on the part of a clown or actor) intended to excite laughter; hence, jesting, nonsense; also slang, fooling or monkeying about; deceitful or underhand practices; similarly funny stuff, funny dope; funny column, funny paper, a (section of a) newspaper containing humorous matter or illustrations. orig. U.S. 

   1860 W. Hancock Emigrant's Five Years Free States Amer. iv. 93 The ‘funny’ column of any American journal.    1874 in L. Hearn Amer. Miscellany (1924) I. 20 The said Giglampz is not a funny paper.    1888 E. W. Nye Baled Hay 38 There was no funny business in his nature.    1890 Century Mag. Dec. 303 She even ventured on the funny column, for it was not Sunday.    1891 E. S. Ellis Check No. 2134 xiv. 93, I hope we'll get through without any more funny business.    1915 Froëst & Dilnot Crime Club x, The blue barrel of a revolver showed in the electric light. ‘No funny business!’ he warned them. ‘You guys can't play it on me.’    Ibid. xii, Especially if you try to put any of the funny dope over on me.    1930 London Mercury Feb. 324 He'll be out and about in a fortnight. Till then we will visit him together—and no funny stuff!    1936 ‘I. Hay’ Housemaster xv. 191 She seemed to be labouring under the idea that he, Victor, was trying to start some funny business with her.    1946 Wodehouse Money in Bank xii. 105 He is far too scared of our hostess to try any funny stuff on her.    1960 O. Manning Great Fortune iii. xviii. 210 Our permits‥are issued on the understanding that we do not get mixed up in any funny business.    1968 Globe & Mail Mag. (Toronto) 13 Jan. 15/3 Despite an early apprenticeship to the funny papers McArthur was a subtle humorist.    1971 D. Potter Brit. Eliz. Stamps iii. 44, 1968 was even quieter. Only four sets, no strange se-tenant strips or funny business.

2. a.A.2.a Curious, queer, odd, strange. colloq. 

   1806 Metcalfe in Owen Wellesley's Desp. 809 This study to decrease our influence is funny. I cannot understand it.    1838 James Robber i, That was a funny slip of mine.    1852 Mrs. Stowe Uncle Tom's C. xix, ‘What funny things you are making’‥‘I'm trying to write to my poor old woman.’    1855 Ld. Houghton in Life (1891) I. xi. 527 Lady Ellesmere was very funny about Mrs. Gaskell, wanting very much to see her, and yet quite shy about it.    1889 N.W. Linc. Gloss. (ed. 2) s.v., ‘To keap fun'rals waaitin' time efter time is a straange funny waay for a parson to go on.’

b.A.2.b funny-peculiar, a colloquialism introduced to distinguish sense 2 from sense 1 (funny-ha-ha), the two antithetic expressions freq. appearing together. 

   1938 ‘I. Hay’ Housemaster iii. 78 Chris. That's funny. Button. What do you mean, funny? Funny-peculiar, or funny ha-ha?    1942 Horizon July 69 He says, ‘Funny-haha or funny-peculiar?’ and I says, ‘Funny-peculiar.’    1946 S. Gibbons Westwood vii. 95 You said her conscience forced her into being a you-know-what. It sounds awfully funny-peculiar.    1955 M. McCarthy Charmed Life (1956) iii. 58 His art-school training rendered him funny ha-ha to the cognoscenti.    1959 J. Verney Friday's Tunnel xxv. 227 John Gubbins leant forward, smiling in a funny-peculiar not funny-ha-ha way.    1965 Times Lit. Suppl. 8 Apr. 281/3 Whether it is also amusing or merely funny-peculiar will depend upon the reader.    1970 ‘D. Shannon’ Unexpected Death (1971) ii. 24 He thought the blonde was rather funny‥in the sense of funny-peculiar.

†3.A.3 slang. Tipsy. Obs. 

   1756 W. Toldervy Two Orphans I. 62 More brandy was drank, and, Tom Throw beginning to be what is called funny, the house was full of uproar and confusion.

4.A.4 Comb., as funny-looking adj.; funny-bone, the popular name for that part of the elbow over which the ulnar nerve passes, from the peculiar sensation experienced when it is struck; also fig.; funny-face, a joc. and colloq. form of address; funny farm slang, a mental hospital; funny-man, a professional jester; funny party Naut., a ship's concert party. 

   1840 Barham Ingol. Leg., Bloudie Jacke, And they smack, and they thwack, Till your ‘*funny bones’ crack.    1867 Pall Mall G. 30 Jan. 4 It is like rapping a man‥over the funny-bone.    1881 Blackmore Christowell xv, Even the fiddlers three‥worked their funny-bones more gently.    1902 Daily Chron. 12 June 3/3 Two principal figures and a few carefully careless scratches—that is all Mr. Raven-Hill uses in the pointing of his joke, but he hits the universal funny-bone with his pencil.    1965 G. McInnes Road to Gundagai x. 161 Kennedy‥hit our funny-bones because he was a man who used long words with an extremely sober face.

   1927 I. Gershwin (song title) *Funny face.    1930 Sayers & ‘Eustace’ Documents in Case 38 Ever and ever yours, funny-face, old dear.    1943 A. Christie Moving Finger v. 52 ‘It's all right, funny face,’ I said.    1963 J. N. Harris Weird World Wes Beattie v. 61 Before Baldwin Ogilvy agrees to locking his client away in the *funny farm, he might like to investigate the whole bang shoot.    1969 E. Ambler Intercom Conspiracy (1970) ix. 173 Intercom was described as ‘the Batman of the funny-farm set’ and its editor as ‘the Lone Ranger of the lunatic fringe’.

   1895 M. E. Francis Frieze & Fustian 283 ‘Yon's a *funny-lookin' lass. Let's chase her!’

   1861 Mayhew Lond. Labour III. 119 What I've earn'd as clown, or the *funnyman, with a party of acrobats.

   1911 ‘Guns’ & ‘Theeluker’ Middle Watch Musings 137 Nearly every ship has a ‘*funny’ party.    1917 ‘Taffrail’ Sub vii. 178 Once a year came the squadron regatta and sports, while at intervals our ‘Funny Party’, or pierrot troupe, gave an entertainment.

B.B n. pl. Comic illustrations, etc.; spec. comic strips, or the section of a newspaper devoted to these (D.A.). Hence, funny persons, books, etc.; jokes. rare in sing. orig. U.S. 

   1852 Lantern (N.Y.) II. 114/1 Keeping our dear public advised of all operations in the ‘Funnies’.    1920 C. Sandburg Smoke & Steel 33 About the funnies in the papers.    1922 ― Slabs of Sunburnt West 35 Turning among headlines, date lines, funnies, ads.    1925 A. Huxley Those Barren Leaves i. i. 8 The funnies and the fuzzy-wuzzies—in a word, the artists.    1936 Wodehouse Laughing Gas xxvi. 272 We've only read the movie section and the funnies.    1941 Belloc Silence of Sea v. 33 What some modern funnies call ‘wish-fulfilment’.    1952 in Wentworth & Flexner Dict. Amer. Slang (1960) 205/2 Cut the funnies an' git a can-opener.    1959 Punch 30 Dec. 682/2 Makers of pantomimes engaged the ripest music-hall funnies they could find.    1961 John o' London's 14 Sept. 307/1 The best bet would have been to ship this Mexican funny [sc. a film] straight out on circuit.    1961 ‘B. Wells’ Day Earth caught Fire viii. 118 No funnies, Dave. Something's going on.    1970 New Yorker 17 Oct. 148/2, I hear he's a lawyer now, restricted, I suppose, to sneaking in a funny now and then in his summation to the jury.

Hence ˈfunnily adv., in a funny manner; ˈfunniness, the quality or state of being funny; a funny saying or joke. Also ˈfunnyism nonce-wd., a joke. 

   1814 Lady Granville Lett. 18 Nov. (1894) I. 51 [He] says she‥talks so funnily and sweetly.    1839 C. Fox Mem. Old Friends (1882) 37 His stories and funnyisms of all descriptions.    1856 Ld. Cockburn Mem. 317 note, It was funnily done; which was not always the case, for it was often with bitter gravity.    1857 Gen. P. Thompson Audi Alt. I. xi. 57, I did hear one or two members‥make a kind of school-boy titter at the funniness of a man's not being seconded.    1865 Daily Tel. 8 Dec. 4/6 Marching‥to the sound of their own‥irrepressible funninesses.    1882 J. Brown Horæ Subs. Ser. iii. 35 A man‥whose absolute levity and funniness became ponderous.

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