which one of these words is used as everyday English as well as means to despise someone and make fun of him for example because of his shape or Social status and so on

  • They both are reasonably common (although the most "everyday" expression for me would be "make fun of"), and both could be used in that situation.
    – sumelic
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:09
  • 3
    I think of taunting (but not ridiculing) as soliciting a reaction - like provoking, but I don't see that connotation mentioned in definitions.
    – Drew
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:35

4 Answers 4


Ridicule and Taunt are very similar in meaning, but taunt has the additional meaning of inciting the person who is being taunted to a response.

Adolph, enraged at this taunt, flew furiously at his adversary, swearing and striking on every side of him (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin), quoted in The Free Dictionary

ridicule, The Free Dictionary

The act of using words, gestures, images, or other products of expression to evoke laughter or contemptuous feelings regarding a person or thing: a remark that invited the ridicule of his classmates.

taunt, The Free Dictionary

  1. To reproach in a mocking, insulting, or contemptuous manner: taunted her for wearing hand-me-down clothes. See Synonyms at ridicule.

2a To drive or incite (a person) by taunting: His friends taunted him into asking for a raise.

2b To tease and excite sexually: taunted him with glimpses of skin

(emphasis added)

  • Please note this refers to someone called Adolph, not Adolf
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:40
  • It was meant as a joke.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 23:21
  • I agree with this difference (said so in a comment), but I did not see this connotation in a quick google of definitions. For me, it typically has this connotation of provoking or inciting a response.
    – Drew
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 0:14

Where I do agree on the answers given by the others, I wanted to add this:

When taunting the intended receiver of your message is the person you are taunting. The purpose of the taunt is to get a reaction from that person (or animal).

When ridiculing the intended receiver of your message is whomever is your audience at the moment, and it doesn't need to include the person (or animal or thing) being ridiculed. The purpose of ridicule is to lower other peoples opinion on whomever or whatever you are ridiculing.

Both taunting and ridiculing doesn't require words to be effective. To ridicule someone (especially in front of someone they admire) is often a very effective taunt and getting an explosive reaction from a taunt in front of others is often effective ridicule. I would wager that is the most common use of taunting in our modern society. Taunting was used a lot in battle (and still is) to make the opponent make a unfavourable move out of anger. In pen and paper role playing games and video games there will often be a skill or action called taunt that can be used by the tank (the one who is tough and is meant to take most of the hits) to attract the attention of the foes so they will favour him/her over other targets even though hitting them would be strategically more favourable.


Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary treats ridicule and taunt as fairly close synonyms, in a cluster that also contains deride and mock. A Google Ngram chart of the four expressions over the period 1900–2005 shows that ridicule (blue line) and mock (green line) are considerably more common in published texts than taunt (red line) and deride (yellow line):

The most striking thing about the chart is how stable the frequency of usage has been for three of the four words (all except ridicule) over the charted period.

In any event, here is the Eleventh Collegiate's note on how the meanings of the four words differ:

RIDICULE, DERIDE, MOCK, TAUNT mean to make an object of laughter of. RIDICULE implies a deliberate often malicious belittling {consistently ridiculed everything she said}. DERIDE suggests contemptuous and often bitter ridicule {derided their efforts to start their own business}. MOCK implies scorn often ironically expressed as by mimicry or sham deference {youngsters began to mock the helpless wino}. TAUNT suggests jeeringly provoking insult or challenge {hometown fans taunted the visiting team}.

So you have two considerations to bear in mind: the commonness of the term, and the particular connotations of the term. Both ridicule and taunt are widely used and understood words, although ridicule appears to be more common; but the implications of the two words (if we are to believe Merriam-Webster) are somewhat different.

(As a final note, I should point out that ridicule and taunt can be either nouns or verbs, whereas mock can be either a verb or an adjective, and deride is strictly a verb. So the advantage in frequency that mock has had over ridicule since the 1970s, according to the Ngram chart above, may actually understate the advantage that the verb mock has over the verb ridicule, or it may reflect, in part, the popularity of mock as an adjective.)

  • +1 for mentioning the noun forms. You can have "a taunt", but you can't have "a ridicule".
    – nnnnnn
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 6:27

Taunt is personal:

to say insulting things to (someone) in order to make that person angry.

A taunt can consist of ridicule ("Your mama wears army boots"), but doesn't have to be about anything or even derogatory; a simple "Nyahh, nyahh, nyahh" is a nonspecific (childish) taunt. In order to be a taunt, the taunter expects the person being taunted to be paying attention.

Ridicule is not personal:

making fun of a person or thing, usually based on a specific characteristic, deserved or not.

But ridicule doesn't have to be directed at a person. One might ridicule a political opponent's opinion to people who agree with you ("preaching to the choir"). Or you can ridicule something or someone when you are all by yourself.

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