The 10 funniest words in the English language according to science

"The wriggly puffball giggled and guffawed as the jiggly bubby ended his yapping to upchuck."

If that sentence made you laugh, it's because it contains eight of the 10 funniest words in the English language, according to a new study.

Researchers in the UK took 5000 English words and had participants rate how funny they really were.

Computer scientists in Canada then looked at the results, and figured out just what makes them so funny. They found most funny words relate to one or more of six different categories - sex, bodily functions, insults, swear words, partying and animals.

"It turns out that the best predictor of funniness is not distance from one of those six categories, but rather average distance from all six categories," said University of Alberta psych professor Chris Westbury.

"This makes sense, because lots of words that people find funny fall into more than one category, like sex and bodily functions - like boobs."

Other features funny words often have include the letter K and the 'oo' sound found in 'boobs' and the even naughtier 'cooch', which made the top 10.

"Humour is, of course, still personal," said Prof Westbury. " Here, we get at the elements of humour that aren't personal; things that are universally funny."

The top 10 funniest words, and what they mean

  • Upchuck - to vomit
  • Bubby - young boy
  • Boff - have sexual intercourse
  • Wriggly - twisting, or moving like a snake
  • Yaps - talk in a shrill, insistent way
  • Giggle - laugh softly
  • Cooch - slang for a vagina
  • Guffaw - laugh loudly
  • Puffball - a kind of fungi
  • Jiggly - bouncing up and down
Jigglypuff - scientifically proven to have the funniest name of all Pokemon.
Jigglypuff - scientifically proven to have the funniest name of all Pokemon. Photo credit: Pokemon Company

But is 'puffball' funnier than 'tinkle'? The latter featured in a completely different top 10 list produced by University of Warwick researchers last year, based on the same data looked at by the Canadians.

They found the funniest word we have in our arsenal is 'booty', followed by tit, booby, hooter, nitwit, twit, waddle, tinkle, bebop and egghead. Men across the board found sexual terms hilarious (including 'orgy' and 'bondage', which skewed the top 10 significantly; women showed more variety in their tastes, laughing at words like 'juju' and 'humbug'.

Old people found 'caddie', 'limey' and 'housewife' amusing, while younger people laughed at 'goatee', 'squaw' and 'gangster'.

The least funny words across all ages and gender were rape, torture, torment, gunshot, death, nightmare, war, trauma and rapist.

"We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own - it turns out that indeed is the case," said lead author Tomas Engelthaler.

The latest study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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