What Is a Dad Joke?

You've heard them called "dad jokes," but have you ever wondered why? We have a definition and also the perfect example of a dad joke.

Neal Whitman, Writing for
6-minute read
Episode #573

what is a dad joke

For years, individual families have had fathers who were inclined to tell jokes that were so inane that the family gave them their own name. Often, they would end up calling them “dad jokes.” Consider this obituary in the Philadelphia Daily News from May 1990, which tells about a beloved father:

He told corny jokes, like, “A guy went to the dentist for false teeth and only had a dollar so they gave him a buck tooth.”

The family label for a really corny joke or pun was to call it a “Dad Joke.”

But now this term has escaped into the larger population, as people have realized that there are a lot more of these fathers and their jokes than they first thought. Now you can find mentions of dad jokes in magazine articles that don’t explain what they are, because they assume you know. For example, just this month, People magazine online posted an article titled “9 Celebs Who Are Masters of the Dad Joke.” If you search for “dad jokes” on YouTube, you’ll find enough videos to keep you busy for days, including titles such as “5 Dad Jokes that Will Make You Facepalm” and “The Ultimate Dad Joke Duel.”

So how dumb ARE dad jokes, you ask? I’ll let you judge for yourself, as I share a few of my favorites.

Did you hear about the kidnapping at the school?

It’s OK; he woke up!


When my wife told me to stop doing my flamingo impression, it was time to put my foot down!


Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Because 7 8 9.


About the Author

Neal Whitman, Writing for Grammar Girl

Neal Whitman PhD is an independent writer and consultant specializing in language and grammar and a member of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, school board. You can find him at literalminded.wordpress.com.

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