From my undestanding of those two words :

Climax : point of highest tension in a drama.

Anticlimax : Something which might have seem like a climax at some point is finally very trivial.

I am looking for a word that describe something right in between those two words. nothing seems to stand out, whether it is in a good or bad way.

The joke analogy may clear some things up :

  • The punch line of a good joke may be refered to as a climax.

  • the punch line of a bad joke may be refered to as an anti-climax (as it may be disappointing, not fulfilling any expectation).

  • What I am looking for is the word for the punch line which is not really disappointing, but not funny enough to even make the side of your mouth twitch.

PS : feel free to correct any spelling mistakes present here. The french I am Frenchman in me would be very thankful grateful!

  • 4
    What would you use that word for?, can you provide a context please?
    – user66974
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:34
  • 1
    A quick cigarette.
    – MetaEd
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:40
  • You could just call it "the ending" or "the end". Jun 22, 2016 at 15:41
  • @MετάEd that's a very funny and accurate metaphor ! Jun 22, 2016 at 15:50
  • edited the question to be a bit more clear (or at least I tried to) Jun 22, 2016 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


You could say the punchline was tepid, or one of its many synonymns:

(especially of a liquid) only slightly warm; lukewarm.

synonyms: lukewarm, warmish, slightly warm; at room temperature

"tepid water"

showing little enthusiasm.

"the applause was tepid"

synonyms: unenthusiastic, apathetic, muted, halfhearted, so-so, 'comme ci, comme ça', indifferent, subdued, cool, lukewarm, uninterested, unenthused

"a tepid response"

You might also describe the punchline as meh, depending on how informal your context is:

expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.

"Meh. I'm not impressed so far"

uninspiring; unexceptional.

"a lot of his movies are … meh"

  • 1
    Actually, a tepid outcome could be interpreted as anticlimactic. Jun 22, 2016 at 16:00
  • Tepid and the synonyms you provide seem to me to describe the audience and its response rather than the punchline. Jun 22, 2016 at 16:00
  • @KristinaLopez I guess that raises a meta question about where "the middle" stops and "anticlimactic" begins. But OP seems to be looking for words that describe the middle, and tepid seems to be about right. If you have a better answer I'd be curious to read it. Jun 22, 2016 at 16:02
  • @StoneyB If we stick to the examples from google, I agree with you. But I think it would be very reasonable to describe a "middle of the road" punchline as tepid. Jun 22, 2016 at 16:03
  • Ha! If I had one, Kevin, I'd submit it. Personally, I don't think there is a word for the OP's scenario but I have to say, your "Meh" seems like a winner! +1 :-) Jun 22, 2016 at 16:16

Frame challenge: there is no middle ground.

Technically speaking, anticlimaxes are a type of climax (much like anti-symmetry is a type of symmetry). What makes them "anti" is the following resolution, not the climax itself. If this resolution trivializes the climax - which I would say is independent of whether or not it's disappointing, see any Monty Python skit - the climax is an anticlimax.

In other words, the word you're looking for is anticlimax. Particularly disappointing anti-climaxes (which I assume are what you aren't talking about) are what have the special names, usually implying that the author is a bad writer ("plot hole" is the first thing that comes to mind, but that is far too general).

To use your analogy, the climax of a joke isn't the punchline, it's the moment before the punchline, where the "victim" of the joke says "I don't know, why did the chicken cross the road?" or "Orange who?" or even just stares blankly at the joker. The punchline itself is the resolution, and thus defines whether the climax is "anti" or not.

That said, the answer to the question you ask in the body (which is different from the title question, for the reasons I have explained) is admirably answered by @KevinWorkman, and seems to be what you are looking for.

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