• He will surreptitiously introduce a frog into your handbag.
  • You leave your car keys on a desk, he sees it and hides it somewhere.
  • He may offer you M&M type candies that will leave your mouth entirely blue.

Although most of us would call this person "a jerk", "an asshole", "a creep", or "an s.o.b.", all these terms are generic and not specific for "one who plays dirty and unpleasant tricks".

I'm not looking for lists. One word or phrase will be enough provided there is a reference link.

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    I would say that "prankster" is the best single word for this, although it doesn't convey a strong sense of the tricks being unpleasant/cruel. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 3:13
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    I assume that you are looking for something that would convey the fact that said jokes are in rather bad taste? – thkala Nov 5 '14 at 15:35
  • @thkala sure, that's it. – Centaurus Nov 5 '14 at 21:43
  • 4
    "The defendent"? – Steve Jessop Nov 5 '14 at 22:15
  • 1
    'Malicious prankster'? – A E Nov 5 '14 at 22:19

14 Answers 14


The following, although not slang, may be relevant:

practical joker, “someone who instigates practical jokes” – wiktionary
prankster, “One who performs pranks” – wiktionary
trickster, “One who performs a trick”; also “A mythological figure responsible for teaching others through the use of guile and treason” – wiktionary

Wikipedia's practical joke article says the following:

A practical joke (also known as a prank, gag, jape or shenanigan) is a mischievous trick or joke played on someone, generally causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion, or discomfort. Practical jokes range from confidence tricks [to] hoaxes ... Practical jokes or pranks are generally lighthearted, reversible and non-permanent, and aim to make the victim feel foolish or victimised to a degree, but may also involve cruelty verging on bullying if performed without appropriate finesse. [emph. added]

  • 2
    "Jokester" is another term. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 3:09
  • 1
    Also, jester. – jxh Nov 5 '14 at 20:02
  • 2
    Also japester – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 10:37

The slang term troll seems to be acquiring this meaning.

Troll has been used for a number of years to refer to a person who makes inflammatory posts in Internet forums for the purpose of annoying others or stirring up trouble. More recently, it seems to also refer to people who perpetrate real-life pranks for similar purposes. Troll seems to have a stronger connotation of mean-spiritedness than prankster or trickster.

I'm having trouble finding an authoritative citation (can anyone help?), but for example there is a website named "Art of Trolling" which collects examples of both real-life and Internet pranks.

  • 4
    (Interestingly, I'm pretty sure "troll", in this sense, is derived from the fishing activity of "trolling", which involves dragging a baited hook or lure through the water to see what bites at it. Different from the troll hiding under the bridge.) – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 16:40
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    @HotLicks: The "social media community" is rapidly approaching a majority of the population in many places, and in certain demographics (e.g. teenagers in industrialized nations) probably represents nearly everybody. (I'm not saying they all know this word, of course.) – Nate Eldredge Nov 5 '14 at 17:06
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    Originally it applied to comments and posts that attempted to stir up a fight -- goes back 20-30 years. The similarity to dragging bait through the water is obvious. The "troll" was the comment/post, not the person doing the posting. The fact that "troll" also happened to be a mischievous elf didn't hurt things, but I'm pretty sure it was not the original allusion. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 18:39
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    @Dispensador - Yeah, it quickly evolved to "don't feed the troll", locking in the view of the person as the troll, rather than the post. But I'm pretty certain that it started in the fishing sense. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 21:45
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    'Troll' is from 'trawling for newbies'. catb.org/jargon/html/T/troll.html via 'troll fishing'. Certainly in recent years it has acquired the 'troll under the bridge' connotation. – A E Nov 5 '14 at 22:17

You could figuratively call that person an imp. I would quote Wikipedia, which mentions imps' affinity for pranks, but the entry is not sourced well.

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    There are a number of different names (in different languages and cultures) for elf-like creatures who are anywhere from benignly mischievous to out-and-out evil -- imp, troll, nisse, tomte, et al. Probably none carry the desired connotation in ordinary US/Brittish English, however. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '14 at 16:37
  • I can't imagine someone answering "a person who plays unpleasant jokes all the time" to the question "what is an imp". – GreenAsJade Nov 6 '14 at 11:30
  • @GreenAsJade I don't think you're taking context into account. If someone were to ask me what it specifically means if you call a person an imp, I would answer with something along the lines of how the person must be a source of unpleasant mischief. – Muqo Nov 6 '14 at 12:39
  • I see - I think that's fair. – GreenAsJade Nov 6 '14 at 14:27

rascal (Merriam-Webster):

a person and especially a young person who causes trouble or does things that annoy people

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    Some near-synonyms like rapscallion, varlet, knave, scalawag are probably just as good as rascal. Also creep – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 5 '14 at 16:01
  • A person who plays tricks all the time probably is a rascal, but rascal does not mean "someone who specifically plays unpleasant jokes all the time". This answer is like the list that the OP said he's not interested in (jerk etc). – GreenAsJade Nov 6 '14 at 11:29

From the OP's detailed description, I'm inclined to believe that these jokes contain an element of maliciousness, the type of practical jokes where the victim may not spontaneously burst out laughing. The OP suggests that we call the person who performs these jokes; a jerk, a s.o.b, a creep etc. Therefore I suggest the following term


  1. a. A playful or mischievous act; a prank.
    b. Mischief; prankishness. Often used in the plural.
    reckless or malicious behavior that causes discomfort or annoyance in others
  • A person who performs shenanigans.

Apparently, the term shenanigans in the US is considered slang,
and the phrase “call shenanigans” is used in some regions of the US.

Shenanigans are activities which are intended to be mischievous and playful. Pranks and jokes, for example, are both considered to be shenanigans. This term is also sometimes used to refer to deceptive activities which cause harm, irritation, or upset, and people might use the term “no shenanigans” in the sense of “no funny business,” meaning that such activities will not be tolerated. This term is especially common in the United States, which may be its country of origin, although no one is certain. [...]
The meaning of the word is also quite slippery, as it is used in a number of different ways, and its adoption as a slang term has further clouded its meaning. Curiously, people rarely use a singular form of “shenanigans.” Apparently a single shenanigan is simply unheard of. Shenanigans can have more sinister implications, however. Some people use the term to describe confidence tricks and other deceptive activities which are linked more with wrongdoing than fun times. The victims of these sorts of shenanigans may be embarrassed, humiliated, or injured, and they run the risk of losing money as well.


In some regions of the United States, people use the term “call shenanigans” to talk about calling someone out for questionable activity. Someone who suspected that he or she was being bilked at an auto repair shop, for example, might say “I call shenanigans,” suggesting that some sort of deceptive activity or wrongdoing might be occurring. Practical jokers may also find the tables turned on them by victims who call shenanigans, putting an end to the joke by indicating that they have seen through it.

Source: Wise Geek

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    That's very near what I'm looking for: a word for a person who performs shenanigans. From the answers I've got so far I suspect there isn't such word. – Centaurus Nov 5 '14 at 21:48

Mischief Makers - from host of "Hobo Kelly" 1960s kids show on 13 KCOP.

-- https://english.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment mentions "You Scallywag" as a non-helpful comment content.


In Geordie, the word shan is a reasonable fit.

(Geordie) unfair, harsh

Here man! that's pure shan that like



I would call this person mischievous. It also has the negative sense that you want to convey. [Though, the word has a broader usage also.]

If you’re the one making prank phone calls at 3 am and you can’t resist short-sheeting your camp counselor’s bunk, you're mischievous. If your dog likes to decorate your house with streamers of toilet paper, he's mischievous, too.

You can be mischievous in harmless, playful ways, or you might also use the word mischievous to describe behavior that's more than just a little naughty. If you post online some embarrassing photos of an acquaintance, your more generous friends might describe your behavior as mischievous, although others might accuse you of being downright mean. Keep in mind that the word has only three syllables: MIS-chuh-vuhs.


  • 1
    There is the verb "bullyrag" also with the negative sense you want: (tr) to bully, esp by means of cruel practical jokes. [thefreedictionary]. But the noun usage "bullragger" is not common. – ermanen Nov 5 '14 at 22:06

The (non-slang) word boor literally means an unrefined, ill-mannered person (Google), but to me, at least, it has strong connotations of someone who has an offensive, unfunny sense of humor.

EDIT: Although boor on its own has been judged unfit, perhaps the phrase boorish prankster might best convey the complete meaning you're seeking.


'Kidder" comes to mind now which can indicate childish behavior including practical jokes by anyone regardless of age. Its ok to have some humor but some go to the excess at the discomfort of others.


If you are looking for American slang: busted ass prankster http://ohhla.com/anonymous/getoboys/rm_bside/action.gtb.txt

AKA: Playing around or joking with people you should not and its not funny.

More formal: scoun·drel



noun: scoundrel; plural noun: scoundrels

a dishonest or unscrupulous person; a rogue. https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=&oq=scound&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4LENN_enUS557US445&q=scoundrel&gs_l=hp..0.0l5.

  • 1
    Your IPA is wrong. – tchrist Nov 5 '14 at 5:27
  • Only a link is not an acceptable response. Also, you would probably want to look at the first sentence hanging incomplete! – Vaibhav Garg Nov 5 '14 at 5:40
  • Your link didn't take me to "busted ass prankster". I could find neither the phrase nor the definition there. – Centaurus Nov 5 '14 at 21:52
  • Very poor quality in terms of slang. Its really dirty street talk as spoken by gutter snipes(My Fair Lady). Should have no place in the vocabulary of intelligent people. – Duane T. Bentz Nov 12 '14 at 19:00

How about fiend?


1. an evil spirit or demon.

synonyms: demon, devil, evil spirit, imp, bogie;

(Google the word)


I'd call that jerk a regular Till Eulenspiegel, "an impudent trickster figure originating in Middle Low German folklore." His name is relatively easy to pronounce; it's oil´ en shpee gull.

Richard Strauss, the German composer and conductor whose career spanned the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, has a famous tone poem entitled "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks." I commend it to your listening pleasure.

From Wikipedia's article:

"In the stories, he is presented as a trickster who plays practical jokes on his contemporaries, exposing vices at every turn, greed and folly, hypocrisy and foolishness. As Peter Carels notes, 'The fulcrum of his wit in a large number of the tales is his literal interpretation of figurative language.'[4] In these stories, anything that can go wrong in communication does go wrong due to the disparity in consciousness. And it is not the exception that communication gives rise to complications; rather, it is the rule. As a model of communication, Till Eulenspiegel is the inherent, unpredictable factor of complication that can throw any communication, whether with oneself or others, into disarray. These irritations, amounting to conflicts, have the potential of effecting mental paradigm changes and increases in the level of consciousness. Although craftsmen are featured as the principal victims of his pranks, neither the nobility nor the pope is exempt from being affected by him."

  • 3
    I've searched "Eulenspiegel" and it seems to me that it is more German folklore than an English word. – Centaurus Nov 5 '14 at 21:57
  • @Centaurus: No argument there. The OP didn't specify the language, but if I had thought 1.2 minutes longer I would have realized this site is devoted to ENGLISH language and usage. D'oh! In my defense, though, there are lots of words we English speakers have borrowed from other languages and use in the original language. Some examples come to mind: dummkopf, adios, merci, je ne sais quoi, gracias, amigo, joie de vivre, papier mâché, crescendo, espresso, café, al fresco, yarmulke, czar, epicurean, machete, gringo, junta, macho, machismo, matador, aficionado, politico, incognito. Don – rhetorician Nov 6 '14 at 6:03
  • Your word doesn't sound common at all to the colloquial English tongue. – Duane T. Bentz Nov 12 '14 at 18:47

The term punk is more synonymous with a hooligan than a practical joker, but I would find the term appropriate since the target is being punk'd.

: a usually petty gangster, hoodlum, or ruffian
(Source: Merriam-Webster)

For example:

Villain: Hah, you've been punk'd!
Victim: Very funny, punk.


Wife: Who would smash our mailbox?
Husband: Just some punks, don't worry about it.

@ChrisSunami points out that alternative definitions of punk allow it to be used to refer to the punk'd target.

If you want a term that has more of a negative bite, you may want to use the term buffoon:

: a stupid or foolish person who tries to be funny
(Source: Merriam-Webster)

This term may be appropriate if you do not actually feel the pranks are funny.

  • 1
    Punk is a word with several common definitions in American slang, none of which matches this usage. The "punk" in Punk'd is actually the victim, not the prankster --the usage has roots in African American slang where it started as anti-homosexual slur. – Chris Sunami Nov 5 '14 at 22:04
  • Check definition 3c, that's the origin of punked, not 3b. Also see this, although it's arguably NSFW: answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080809124915AASP5nT – Chris Sunami Nov 6 '14 at 2:32
  • @ChrisSunami: I have already conceded the alternate definitions allow it to be used as you say. I am only saying that I have never heard it used that way. – jxh Nov 6 '14 at 7:11
  • I'm sorry to be pedantic about a slang word, but while punk can certainly mean ruffian or hooligan, your extension of it to prankster via the term punked is simply wrong. Just because it's slang doesn't mean it doesn't have an actual etymology. – Chris Sunami Nov 6 '14 at 14:22
  • @ChrisSunami: I believe you are reading more into the answer than intended. I am suggesting a term for someone that behaves immaturely and happens to be proximate to a word describing the immature act. – jxh Nov 6 '14 at 16:31

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