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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.

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Comments from our users:

Wednesday June 25th 2014, 2:44 AM
Comment by: Rhonda H. (WA)
Thank you for explaining the difference between facetious and sarcastic. I have read on your site that sarcasm is a form of verbal irony. Where does facetious fit? Is it a type of irony?

BTW, I love your grammar game. Is there a way to play it on my computer rather than on my iPad?

Thank you,
Wednesday June 25th 2014, 8:22 AM
Comment by: chris . (liverpool United Kingdom)
Unfortunately, too often I am both facetious and or sarcastic.Both verbal devices prevent me from commiting murder.
Thursday June 26th 2014, 12:24 AM
Comment by: Rhonda H. (WA)
Too funny Chris. Facetious is okay. Sarcasm can get you killed.
Friday June 27th 2014, 1:24 PM
Comment by: Darshak R. (India)
Saturday June 28th 2014, 12:28 PM
Comment by: william M. (san francisco, CA)
Ms. Fogarty's feature is one of the many features that make visual thesaurus such a great site. Thanks Mignon.
Saturday June 28th 2014, 1:50 PM
Comment by: christiane P. (paris Afghanistan)
Thank you Mignon for the explanations about sarcastic and facetious. In French language you have the different too and similar meaning.
Sunday June 29th 2014, 10:23 PM
Comment by: Ludin P.
rule of thumb for pronouncing a word
Thursday September 6th 2018, 3:00 PM
Comment by: Omar K.
I must respectfully disagree. A facetious remark (or more often, question) treats a serious subject with inappropriate humor.

E.g. "OK, Doctor. I'll try to get more exercise. Does lifting a beer mug count?"

A sarcastic remark or question employs irony for comic effect, and is usually derogatory or critical.

E.g. "Oh, great, we can use a little more rain." (meaning: it's been raining for too long already)

The remark: "Nice hat!" might be sarcastic if it is intended to mean "that hat looks ridiculous." Moreover, it might also be facetious if the hat should not be mocked in that way (e.g., if it is a bishop's mitre).

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