Double Entendre | Examples, Definition & Meaning

A double entendre is a type of wordplay that involves one straightforward meaning and another implied, risqué meaning. While sometimes used to simply mean “pun,” a true double entendre traditionally implies taboo innuendo.

Double entendre example
I like to have a Martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under my host.

Double entendres are used for humor or subtle communication and can add humor and complexity to literature, comedy, and everyday conversation.

What is a double entendre?

A double entendre is a play on words with dual meanings involving off-color, risqué, or impolite humor. The term is derived from a French phrase (now obsolete in the original language) that translates to “double meaning.”

The term “double entendre” is sometimes used as a direct synonym for “pun,” but traditionally the term is reserved for a pun with a somewhat taboo secondary meaning.

Double entendres often rely on homophones (words that sound the same) and homographs (words that are spelled the same).

How do double entendres work?

Double entendres aim to present one meaning straightforwardly and a secondary, more suggestive meaning subtly. This rhetorical tool is often used in creative contexts such as literature, sitcoms, and song lyrics. The purpose of a double entendre is typically to make a somewhat off-color joke in a context that calls for a degree of delicacy.

Children’s movies and TV shows often include double entendres to appeal to older audience members with an edgier sense of humor.

Double entendre example from TV
In SpongeBob SquarePants, examples of double entendre include the character name “Sandy Cheeks” and the location name “Bikini Bottom.” This wordplay allows the show to appeal to young children while also amusing older viewers who notice the show’s many double meanings.

Double entendres often serve as comedic relief in literary and artistic contexts, but they can also be intertwined with metaphors and symbolism.

The subtlety of a double entendre can lend sophistication and artistry to topics that could otherwise be seen as vulgar.

Double entendre example from song lyrics
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Oh, good God, let me give you my life

The song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier exemplifies an elevated use of double entendres. Hozier uses the phrase “deathless death” in a way that suggests both a religious interpretation (referring to eternal life) and a more intimate interpretation (alluding to the French metaphor “le petit mort,” or “the little death”).

Double entendre examples

Examples of double entendres can be found in literature, film, music, and everyday conversation. These playful uses of language can add humor, depth, and complexity to a text or dialogue.

Double entendre examples in literature

Shakespeare’s frequent use of double entendres adds layers of meaning and humor to his works. His clever wordplay enriches the dialogue and character interactions. Many of these nuances would have been obvious to Shakespeare’s contemporaries but go unnoticed by modern audiences because of the evolution of language.

Double entendre example from Romeo and Juliet
Mercutio: Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.
Romeo: Pink for flower?
Mercutio: Right.
Romeo: Why, then is my pump well flowered.

In Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 4), Romeo and Mercutio engage in suggestive banter involving the words “pump” (meaning “shoe” but also hinting at something sexual) and “flowered” (suggesting either decorations on the shoe or a metaphor related to intimacy). Double entendres are ubiquitous in Shakespeare’s work.

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian satire Brave New World takes a different approach, using double entendres to critique societal norms.

Double entendre example from Brave New World
In Huxley’s Brave New World, men are described as “scampering from feely to feely, from girl to pneumatic girl.” This quote uses “feely” and “pneumatic” as double entendres. “Feely” literally refers to a form of immersive entertainment in the novel and, by extension, criticizes superficial sensory indulgences. “Pneumatic” is used to describe women as both voluptuous and metaphorically “full of air,” highlighting their treatment as insubstantial and commodified beings in the novel’s dystopian setting.

Frequently asked questions about double entendre

What is an example of a double entendre?

A classic example of a double entendre is Michael Scott’s “That’s what she said” jokes in the TV show The Office. Michael uses this phrase to humorously imply a secondary, suggestive meaning to an otherwise innocent statement. This play on words contributed to the eccentricity of Michael Scott’s persona while adding a humorous twist to the show’s dialogue.

What is the difference between a double entendre and a pun?

Puns and double entendres both involve double meanings, but there is a key difference:

  • A pun is any play on words that involves multiple meanings of the same word or phrase.
  • A double entendre is a specific type of pun that has a slightly indecent (typically sexual) connotation.
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.

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Shabo, M. (2024, May 26). Double Entendre | Examples, Definition & Meaning. Scribbr. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/rhetoric/double-entendre/

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Magedah Shabo

Magedah is an author, editor, and educator who has empowered thousands of students to become better writers.