What is a triple entendre?

A triple entendre is a play on words with three interpretations based on the use of words with shared sounds or spellings. Triple entendres often have at least one taboo or risqué interpretation. The name “triple entendre” is based on the name of a more common rhetorical device, “double entendre” (originally from the French for “double meaning”).

An example of a triple entendre can be found in the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles. The line “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” has at least three possible interpretations:

  1. A person can literally “check out” of Hotel California.
  2. A person can “check out” in the sense of mentally escaping reality through substance abuse.
  3. A person might think they can quit (similar to “check out”) anytime they like when suffering from an addiction.