Is there a word in English that describes the feeling or thinking that a joke is funny, but really bad (i.e. groan-worthy) at the same time? For example, most puns cause many people to groan, but they might also make the same people laugh momentarily ("It's not that the man did not know how to juggle; he just didn't have the balls to do it.").

If not that, is there a word that describes such a joke?

  • "groan-worthy" is perfect!
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 21:53
  • The ball-less juggler was a nice example!
    – John Y
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 22:07
  • 5
    No, no, no. They're not groan -worthy, they're thwack -worthy. Get your terminology straight, peoples!
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 22:30
  • @Martha +1 Agreed, immanently thwackable.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 0:11
  • In India, we use PJ for such jokes. I think, it stands for poor joke, but nobody is sure now. Some newspapers even have columns titled PJs for such jokes.
    – rest_day
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 2:07

7 Answers 7


Such jokes are generally described as either "cheesy" or "corny".

  • Absolutely. Although as others have pointed out, OP's own groan-worthy is prefectly okay - not to mention being a bit more snappy and modern. Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 1:59

I think groan-worthy is fine. If you find that's a bit unwieldy, the classic choice would be corny. For jokes that rely on puns, punny seems to be gaining currency.


I think the normal slang term is "cheesy".


here, we use the word dry in colloquial responses to joking. one might have read of a dry sense of humor ie. a joke delivered in deadpan or emotionlessly. usually to characterise someone in general, than a compliment to either person or joke. it can go either way.

so "dry" as a standalone response would be better than cheesy/corny (sappy/cliche) but groan-worthy/lame (ridiculous) enough to warrant any of: a dry/awkward/sarcastic/disbelieving laugh, a non-response, confusion or genuine laughter followed/backed by the term.

And because they havent been said yet -- what about dumb, punny or criiinge-worthy?


I guess I am unusual in that, if I think a joke is bad, I tend not to laugh. Groan worthy jokes are still funny, but also groan-worthy. Cheesy comes close I would say, or a Groaner. Bad implies that is not a good joke, which by definition it must be if it made you laugh. Same for Lame joke. That said, in the court of public opinion, we even have books devoted to bad jokes, which I am sure, many people laugh at. I just can't call a joke that actually manages to amuse me, a bad joke.


I think you're looking for the term:

Lame joke

They're like jokes that cause you to laugh for a moment, and then you groan, "oh, not again!", and then have a teeny bit of exasperation feeling.

  • 1
    One has to be a bit careful with lame. I don't use the word myself, but my general impression of people that do is they are. Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 2:00


That's the word we used growing up.

  • 4
    Hello, user149431, and welcome to English Language & Usage. "Corny" is a very apt word to suggest, in my opinion—but to distinguish your answer from the one that rintaun submitted four years ago (suggesting both "corny" and "cheesy"), you might consider adding a relevant dictionary definition for the word corny to your answer. Doing so would also help readers who may not be familiar with the term in this sense see more readily why your suggestion is a good one. Thanks!
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 7:16
  • @SvenYargs Thanks for the tip. Still learning the platform.
    – user149431
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 7:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.