What Is a Double Entendre? Definition, Examples, Use Cases, and More (2022)

What Is a Double Entendre?

The term double entendre is a noun, specifically a compound noun. Merriam Webster defines double entendre in two ways, depending on the context.

In a literary context, it means, “ambiguity of meaning arising from language that lends itself to more than one interpretation.”

Within the field of linguistics, it’s “a word or expression capable of two interpretations with one usually risqué.”

People may use double entendre as a form of innuendo, where they only allude to a meaning that remains mostly hidden or intentionally obscured. In other cases, the double meaning is explicit or overt. Whether or not the audience understands both interpretations, the term is still appropriate.

What Is a Double Entendre? Definition, Examples, Use Cases, and More (1)

How Double Entendre Is Used in Literature

To understand how double entendre works as a literary device, it’s helpful to look back at some early example sentences in English literature. William Shakespeare famously made use of double entendre, as in this line spoken by Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet:

‘Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.

The phrase “hand of the dial” conjures both clock hand and human hand in this graphic example of double entendre.

Looking back to the 14th century, we can see that sexual innuendo was no less popular during the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, he included many double entendres such as this one from the General Prologue:

Ful wel biloved and famulier was he

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With frankeleyns over al in his contree…

Of course, the author used the word “familiar” to imply that the Friar had knowledge of women in two senses. He was both acquainted with them and overly intimate with them.

Not all of Chaucer’s double entendres were sexual in nature. He loved wordplay and inserted puns into his writing wherever he could. He also made use of intentional ambiguity, as when he included the expression “good felawe” several times throughout The Canterbury Tales. In every case, he left room for interpretation. Is the character literally a “good fellow” or a hopeless rascal?

He also penned many double entendres centering on the word “queynte,” which meant both domestic and female genitalia.

For example, he wrote:

We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,

In this matere a queynte fantasye;

Wayte what thing we may nat lightly have,

Ther-after wol we crye al-day and crave.

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By using the pun, Chaucer created two “queynte” fantasies for the reader, one domestic and the other sexual.

Modern Examples of Double Entendre

Inventing clever double meanings can become a bit of a game. Many script or content creators, poets, and lyricists take pride in their creative wordplay. You can spot double entendres all over the place, from pop songs to internet memes.

Songwriter Bob Dylan employed double entendre in his song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” penning the notorious line, “Everybody must get stoned.” This is a play on words where “stoned” refers to both marijuana and physical stoning with rocks.

More recently, NBC’s “The Office” made use of the offensive (and unintentional) double entendre by having the character Michael Scott insert the phrase “That’s what she said…” after any statement with room for sexual interpretation. Although the joke predated the TV show, The Office certainly made this form of double entendre-hunting more mainstream.

Daniel A. Gross, writing for The Atlantic called it, “a formula that required hardly any forethought and only a little cleverness…the do-it-yourself approach to sex jokes.” He compared Michal Scott’s catchphrase to earlier incarnations of the double entendre punchline, which included “…if you know what I mean” and “…said the actress to the bishop.”

Although historic double entendres may seem literary and cerebral to us now, the form has long celebrated lowbrow humor. Many of the classic examples of double entendre from the world of literature would have been considered raunchy by the audiences in their day.

The Function of Double Entendre

Double entendres serve several important functions.

Comedic Relief

As in The Office, double entendres often function as a form of comedic relief. With a simple turn of phrase, it’s possible to render an otherwise serious idea silly. This works especially well when the first meaning and the second meaning have very different tones. A smutty interpretation can deflate the importance of a consequential statement, making it seem ludicrous.

Layers of Meaning

Double entendres are easy to miss. In creative works, it’s possible to play with these misunderstandings. Perhaps one character hears the double entendre and the other doesn’t. Or better yet, the audience might know something that the characters don’t. It’s possible that a character says something without knowing the full impact of what he or she is saying. Shakespeare made excellent use of dramatic irony and layers of meaning within his plays.

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Figures of speech are useful when authors wish to intentionally obscure their meaning. Double entendres work well to insult, poke fun, or attack power structures. Sometimes authors use the device to allude to other works obliquely. Puns, irony, and double entendres serve as useful tools for anyone looking to say something radical without making direct criticisms.

Double Entendre Examples in the News

Here are a few example sentences showing how the term double entendre has appeared in recent news stories. Several of these publications refer to a singer or a controversial song, proving that double entendres remain popular in modern music.

“Early blues performer Bo Carter often performed with influential string band the Mississippi Sheiks. On his own, he recorded so many double entendres it’s a wonder he could keep his bananas separate from his biscuits.”
Salon, “The 19 greatest double entendre songs”

“The lyrics are preposterous cars/sex double-entendre filth, lent an appealing edginess by Jones’s stentorian vocal.”
The Guardian, “Grace Jones’ 20 greatest songs – ranked!”

“Well, turns out there is a little (not so) hidden meaning behind Legs, who is a hybrid toy of Sid’s, as it’s supposed to be a ‘hooker’ in the most literal form, as a toy who can hook things, but also it has a double entendre, referring to a sex worker.”
Metro, “Our childhoods are ruined as viral TikTok unearths very adult jokes in classic kids’ films”

“Rosa Parks trended on social media Monday night as listeners of Nicki Minaj’s new song debated whether lyrics referencing the civil rights icon could be interpreted as ‘disrespectful’ or a ‘double entendre.'”
NBC News, “Nicki Minaj’s rap on Rosa Parks: ‘disrespectful’ or ‘double entendre’?”

The Difference Between a Double Entendre and a Pun

The difference between a double entendre and a pun can be nuanced.

Firstly, puns always rely on wordplay and a double understanding of the meanings of words. So, a double entendre is a pun whenever it hinges on different interpretations of the same word or similar sounding words.

As an example, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus tells the cyclops Polyphemus that his name is Oudeis (translated into English as Noman), meaning “no one.” When the Cyclops claims that Noman (no one) blinded him, Homer gives us an example of both a pun and a double entendre.

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That said, double entendres don’t have to be puns. For instance, when someone uses innuendo to allude to something smutty, that could be considered a double entendre even when no wordplay is involved.

Likewise, puns aren’t always double entendres. For example, a non-literary pun that plays on a homonym would not be an example of a double entendre unless it’s bawdy or indecent.

Lastly, puns are almost always intended to be funny, whereas double entendres can be serious.

What Is a Triple Entendre?

When a double entendre seems too meager, try a triple entendre! This term applies whenever the use of the word or phrase has three possible interpretations rather than two.

In recent years, triple entendres have become favorite rhetorical devices for hip hop artists.

As an example, here’s a brief but dense line written by Jay-Z, as analyzed by Shadowcast on Genius.com:

I don’t half-step on the ‘caine

As the primary meaning, Jay-Z uses the word “‘caine” to refer to cocaine.

In addition, because rap is an auditory format, the audience hears “cane,” which has the same pronunciation. With this homophone, Jay-Z indicates that he doesn’t literally “half-step” using a cane.

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The third interpretation involves an allusion to Big Daddy Kane’s song, “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’.”

From Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare to Michael Scott and Jay-Z, suffice it to say that the double (and triple) entendre still has legs. Whether it appears within a highbrow literary context or a smutty one-liner, the double entendre remains as vital today as it was during the Middle Ages.


  1. https://www.etymonline.com/word/double%20entendre
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/double%20entendrehttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/double%20entendre
  3. https://genius.com/posts/71-Don-t-ask-me-how-the-elusive-triple-entendre-in-hip-hop
  4. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/full.html
  5. https://chaucer.fas.harvard.edu/pages/general-prologue-0
  6. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll18/id/136377Metro, “Our childhoods are ruined as viral TikTok unearths very adult jokes in classic kids’ films”
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/apr/29/grace-jones-20-greatest-songs-ranked
  8. https://www.salon.com/2014/06/28/the_19_greatest_double_entendre_songs/
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/nicki-minaj-s-rap-rosa-parks-disrespectful-or-double-entendre-n1129826
  10. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1727/1727-h/1727-h.htm


What is the meaning of entendre? ›

verb. hear [verb] to (be able to) receive (sounds) by ear.

How do you use entendre in a sentence? ›

Entendre (To Hear) Meaning, Usage, Example Sentences
  1. Est-ce que tu m'entends? Do you hear me?
  2. J'entends le bruit du train. I can hear the noise of the train.
  3. Je n'ai rien entendu. I didn't hear anything.
17 Jul 2020

What do you call it when something has a double meaning? ›

Definition of double entendre

1 linguistics : a word or expression capable of two interpretations with one usually risqué flirty talk full of double entendres. 2 literature : ambiguity of meaning arising from language that lends itself to more than one interpretation.

What is it called when a story has a double meaning? ›

A double entendre is a sentence or phrase where there are two possible interpretations: the first is straightforward and obvious, while the second is sexually suggestive or offensive in nature.

What is it called when two different words mean the same thing? ›

synonymous Add to list Share. If two words are synonymous, they mean the same thing. You tried to convince her that "love" and "chocolate" were not synonymous, but it was no use.

When a sentence has two meanings? ›

A double entendre is a subtle literary device that uses one statement to convey two very different meanings. Taken literally, a double entendre is usually an innocent statement that has no ironic or inappropriate overtones.

How do you say double entendre? ›

How To Say Double-Entendre - YouTube

Is Entendre a regular verb? ›

Entendre is a widely-used regular verb belonging to the third group of French verbs. It is conjugated regularly in all tenses, with no surprising shifts of vowel or stem.

How do you conjugate Entendre? ›

Entendre is a French regular re verb meaning to hear.
Entendre Conjugation: Present Tense.
1 more row

When a person says one thing but means another? ›

People who say things facetiously are being a little bit sarcastic, saying one thing and meaning another, or treating a serious subject in a funny way.

What do you call a phrase that means something else? ›

Simile is when two things are compared using the words like or as, as in “cheeks as red as roses” or “hair like fire”; metaphor is when a word or phrase that literally means something else is used figuratively in order to describe another thing, as in “drowning in debt.” Many people claim that hyperbole, simile, and ...

What is it called when you say something with a hidden meaning? ›

Consider the adjective underlying as referring to a "subtext," which is something hidden. An example is sarcasm, when a person says one thing but means the opposite. In theater, an actor develops subtext for his or her character to establish an underlying reason for what that character says and does.

What is another word for hidden meaning? ›

buried, clandestine, concealed, covered, covert, dark, invisible, latent, mysterious, obscure, private, secluded, underground, undisclosed, unknown, cloaked, close, clouded, disguised, eclipsed.

What is it called when you say the same thing over and over again? ›

repetitive Add to list Share. Something that is repetitive involves doing the same thing over and over again.

What's it called when you use the same word twice in a sentence? ›

Definition of anaphora

1 : repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses especially for rhetorical or poetic effect Lincoln's "we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground" is an example of anaphora — compare epistrophe.

What is it called when you say the same thing twice in a sentence? ›

Tautology is the use of different words to say the same thing twice in the same statement. `The money should be adequate enough' is an example of tautology.

What do you call a person who is greedy for money? ›

Someone who is avaricious is greedy or grasping, concerned with gaining wealth.

What's it called when something has more than one meaning? ›

Definition of ambiguous

adjective. open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer.

When a word has two opposite meanings? ›

Have you ever encountered a word and learned that it meant the opposite of what you remembered? If so, you may have come across a contronym. A contronym, often referred to as a Janus word or auto-antonym, is a word that evokes contradictory or reverse meanings depending on the context.

How do you pronounce the word Entendre? ›

How to Pronounce Entendre - YouTube

What is the present participle for Entendre '? ›

Daily Verb Lesson: French for understand is entendre
Simple Tenses entendre Present Participle: entendant
Present Présent understandentendsentendez
Past Imperfect Imparfait understoodentendaisentendiez
Simple Past Passé Simple understoodentendisentendîtes
10 more rows

What is the past participle of Entendre? ›

The Past Participle of the French verb entendre
Past Participle

What is the difference between Ecouter and Entendre? ›

What's the difference between écouter and entendre? It can be easy to mix up the French verbs écouter and entendre. The key difference is that the former is active and the latter is passive, similar to the English verbs listen and hear.

Is Rougir a regular verb? ›

Rougir is a regular -ir verb and it follows a very common conjugation pattern used in the French language.

What is the verb to sit in French? ›

Even more common is the pronominal s'asseoir, which means "to sit down" or "take a seat." In this case, it requires être as the auxiliary verb. S'asseoir is conjugated the same as asseoir.

Is Repondre an irregular verb? ›

Répondre is a regular -re verb, meaning it follows the same conjugation patterns as other verbs that end in -re.

What are 10 multiple meaning words? ›

Here is a word that has more than one meaning:
  • Mine.
  • Interest.
  • Date.
  • Engage.
  • Leave.
  • Novel.
  • Park.
  • Play.

What are the 20 examples of homonyms? ›

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs
accept - take inexcept - other than
real - factualreel - roll
right - correct; not leftwrite - scribble
ring - encirclewring - squeeze
road - streetrode - past tense of ride
142 more rows
16 Jul 2019

What are the 3 meanings of the word to? ›

The words "to," "too," and "two" are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings. The preposition "to" refers to a place, direction, or position. The particle "to" is used before the verb in a to-infinitive. The adverb "too" means also, very, extremely, or additionally.

What do you call someone who uses big words to sound smart? ›

Sesquipedalian can also be used to describe someone or something that overuses big words, like a philosophy professor or a chemistry textbook. If someone gives a sesquipedalian speech, people often assume it was smart, even if they don't really know what it was about because they can't understand the words.

What is it called when you tell someone not to do something but you do it? ›

It could also be called double standards: someone tells you not to do something, then does that thing or allows others to do it. My boss told me not to eat at the desk, then walked straight past my co-worker who was eating at his desk, without any complaints may I add. She really has double standards.

Why do we say things we don't mean when angry? ›

In a fit of anger or in frustration, we say things we don't mean when we lose control of our emotions. We act first instead of thinking it through, and hurt the other person with our words. We all say things we don't mean - to our friends, family, or even strangers.

What do you call someone who looks exactly like someone else? ›

doppelgänger noun. or doppelganger /ˈdɑːpəlˌgæŋgɚ/ plural doppelgängers. doppelgänger.

What to call someone who is just like you? ›

doppelganger Add to list Share.

What is the word for saying something without saying it? ›

Speaking in innuendo is when you say something indirectly — often of a hurtful or sexual nature. Innuendo in Latin means "to point to" or "nod to." When you refer to something indirectly, you point at it without mentioning it, making an innuendo.

How do you say double entendre? ›

How To Say Double-Entendre - YouTube

What is the difference between Ecouter and entendre? ›

What's the difference between écouter and entendre? It can be easy to mix up the French verbs écouter and entendre. The key difference is that the former is active and the latter is passive, similar to the English verbs listen and hear.

What are idioms in grammar? ›

An idiom is a commonly used phrase or expression that doesn't follow the usual language patterns or that has a meaning other than the literal. Phrases that, when dissected, don't seem to make much sense, are often idiomatic.

What is the meaning of Repondre in French? ›

The French verb répondre means "to answer." It's a very useful addition to your French vocabulary and one that you probably hear often from your teacher. In order to use it correctly in sentences, though, you'll want to know how to conjugate it.

How do you pronounce the word Entendre? ›

How to Pronounce Entendre - YouTube

How do you conjugate Entendre? ›

The verb 'entendre' is regular but has two meanings.
Entendre: Conjugation.
first personj'entendsnous entendons
second persontu entendsvous entendez
third personil/elle entendils/elles entendent

Is Ecouter avoir or etre? ›

The passé composé is a familiar way to express the past tense "listened to" in French. To construct it, conjugate the auxiliary verb avoir to fit the subject pronoun, then attach the past participle écouté. For example, "I listened to" becomes "j'ai écouté" and "we listened to" is "nous avons écouté."

What are the 10 example of idiom? ›

Here are 20 English idioms that everyone should know:
  • Under the weather. What does it mean? ...
  • The ball is in your court. What does it mean? ...
  • Spill the beans. What does it mean? ...
  • Break a leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Pull someone's leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Sat on the fence. What does it mean? ...
  • Through thick and thin. ...
  • Once in a blue moon.
23 Feb 2022

Is Suit yourself rude? ›

“Suit yourself” is almost never rude or downright impolite, but depending on tone may come across as snippy, judgemental, or negative.

What break a leg means? ›

If you were to tell the actor to “break a leg,” you were wishing them the opportunity to perform and get paid. The sentiment remains the same today; the term means “good luck, give a good performance.”

How do you conjugate Sourire? ›

Sourire in the Compound Past Tense

In order to construct it, you will conjugate avoir into the present tense and follow it with the past participle souri. That gives you j'ai souri for "I smiled" and nous avons souri for "we smiled."

How do you conjugate respondre? ›

Verb conjugation of "répondre" in French
  1. je réponds. tu réponds.
  2. il répondait. nous avons répondu.
  3. vous répondrez.
  4. ils répondraient.

How do you conjugate Croire? ›

Conjugation of french verb croire
  1. Present. je crois. tu crois. il croit. nous croyons. vous croyez. ils croient. ...
  2. Imperfect. je croyais. tu croyais. il croyait. nous croyions. vous croyiez. ...
  3. Simple Past. je crus. tu crus. il crut. nous crûmes. vous crûtes. ...
  4. Simple Future. je croirai. tu croiras. il croira. nous croirons. vous croirez.


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