What is the earliest recorded joke in a published work in the English language?

  • Must it be a joke in english? In other words can it be a joke in latin in an otherwise english book?
    – horatio
    Nov 22, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    Modern English? Middle English? Old English? Lots of English out there, AG. Nov 22, 2013 at 19:34
  • "In the bigynnyng God made of nouyt heuene and erthe." — John Wycliffe, writing in the 14th century.
    – Robusto
    Nov 22, 2013 at 19:37
  • 2
    "What does Grendel eat for breakfast? Danish!" Or possibly Beowulf saying "Your mom!"
    – Jon Hanna
    Nov 22, 2013 at 19:39
  • But the Grendel eating Danish joke would have not originally been in English. Nice try, though! Nov 22, 2013 at 19:42

2 Answers 2


Apparently, the oldest recorded joke in any form of English is about 1,000 years old, and is found in the Exeter Codex, written in Old English.

See the article in Wikipedia about the Codex Exoniensis.

The jokes in question are riddles in the form of double-entendres.


The oldest English joke is from 900AD

The joke itself is not much about the English Language & its Usage.

I am yet to convince myself of its source, authenticity and vintage, though.

  • The one they mention as the oldest English joke there, is in the Exeter Codex, as given by Cyberherbalist in his answer. There's another in the same text that is basically a variant of the same, in that it leads you to suspect the answer to a riddle will be "penis" but it turns out to be something else.
    – Jon Hanna
    Nov 25, 2013 at 10:10

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