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When Is a Comment "Facetious" and When Is It "Sarcastic"?

Here's the latest in our series of tips on usage and style from the one and only Grammar Girl, a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty. What's the difference between facetious and sarcastic?

Facetious and sarcastic have similar meanings and can describe less-than-serious comments. Enterprising teens can find uses for both kinds of comments.

Neither comment is pure and earnest, but a sarcastic response is meaner than a facetious response. The roots of the words may help you remember which is which:

  • Facetious comes from a Latin word that means "jest." A facetious comment is a joking comment—often inappropriate. Think of a jester or joker making a funny face at you, and remember the first part of facetious.
  • Sarcastic comes from a Greek word that means "to speak bitterly or sneer." Ouch! A sarcastic response is less funny than a facetious response and more bitter and harsh. Think of a sarcastic person sneering at you, and remember that both words start with the letter s.

For more help in how to navigate words with similar meanings, check out Vocabulary.com's "Choose Your Words" feature.

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Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. She is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and the creator of the iOS game Grammar Pop. She is also the Donald W. Reynolds Chair of Media Entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Click here to read more articles by Mignon Fogarty.