In daily communications or under an online video, there may be a reply or a comment that shows great quick wit. It can be playful or not. For example, someone encounters an embarrassing situation, but he replies with some wise words, alleviating the atmosphere. Or a comment under a video coming up with a plot twist that makes people laugh.

What do you call this kind of reply or comment showing quit wit? Should I use different words for them, depending on their nature, i.e., whether they are meant to deal with an embarrassing situation or are playful just to amuse others?

  • We often call them "witty replies" or "witty comments". Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 3:21
  • voluble / volubility? glib? loquacious?
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 3:40
  • Please give us the context where you'd use the word. I understand what the context is that you're describing, but when you use this word you're looking for, who are you talking to? Where? What's the sentence? This will help us figure out which term works best
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 4:07
  • 1
    Peripheral - a nice example: In the pro/anti nuclear Oxford debate between NZ prime minister David Lange and Jerry Falwell. | Lange: "I can smell the Uranium on your breath as you lean toward me" [[Lange pronounced ~= Longy]]. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 22:58
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    The word "zinger" comes to mind. Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 22:46

7 Answers 7


A rapid return comment may be considered a 'retort', which may be witty or angry. It describes the speed more than the content, so you could further qualify it as a 'witty retort'.

You could also use rejoinder or riposte [both linked from the above definition], though they are more archaic in my view.

If it were light and amusing, you might call it a 'quip' or if you like alliteration, a 'quick quip'.

  • 3
    Note that "retort" (and rejoinder, and riposte) all imply a level of competition or conflict. Not necessarily very much (they can be used between friends without ruining the friendship; compare to the sort of competition involved in returning a serve on a tennis court), but it's not just that you responded quickly. A retort rarely relieves an embarrassing situation for someone else (it can relieve an embarrassing situation for the person making the retort or a person they defend). It's still the word I thought of (I up-voted), but it's not proper for "wise words, alleviating the atmosphere". Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 11:49

I offer quip. Merriam-Webster has

quip noun
1 b: a witty or funny observation or response usually made on the spur of the moment

and a related verb definition.

  • This was mentioned in the earlier answer by gone fishin' again. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 16:22
  • @DavidSiegel it was mentioned as an afterword, but was not the answer, which I thought conveyed the wrong tone. It says "witty or angry" but OP asked for "playful ... to amuse others." I didn't notice the afterword until later. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 16:41

A good general term, regardless of the circumstance, would be that the speaker was engaging in repartee:

1a: a quick and witty reply
1b: a succession or interchange of clever retorts : amusing and usually light sparring with words
2: adroitness and cleverness in reply : skill in repartee

definition from m-w.com

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    And sticking with the French influence, another expression sometimes used in English is "bon mot" Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 13:28

For a more informal word, especially in the context of an argument, comeback is very common.

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    Isn't comeback used only if the person was already put in some disadvantaged position? The comeback is used to recover from that. Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 18:48
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    @stackoverblown They are two separate meanings of the word.
    – Daron
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 21:20

Riposte - a quick, clever reply to an insult or criticism.

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    More than that. It's borrowed from fencing. A reposte follows a proper parry; without that it's just a counterattack.
    – fectin
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 4:02

Witty: 1 : marked by or full of clever humor or wit, 2 : quick or ready to see or express illuminating or amusing relationships or insights, 3 : amusingly or ingeniously clever in conception or execution.

And the dozens of synonyms depending on what flavor you give the language.


Clever, in the sense of “marked by wit or ingenuity” (Merriam-Webster), or sharp in the sense of “Keen in intellect: quick-witted.”

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