Laugh: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Man laughing

Laughter is an audible expression or the appearance of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy (laughing on the inside). It may ensue (as a physiological reaction) from jokes, tickling or other stimuli. It is in most cases a very pleasant sensation.

Laughter is found among various animals, as well as in humans. Among the human species, it is a part of human behavior regulated by the brain, helping humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and providing an emotional context to conversations. Laughter is used as a signal for being part of a group — it signals acceptance and positive interactions with others. Laughter is sometimes seemingly contagious, and the laughter of one person can itself provoke laughter from others as a positive feedback.[1] This may account in part for the popularity of laugh tracks in situation comedy television shows.

Laughter is anatomically caused by the epiglottis constricting the larynx. The study of humor and laughter, and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology.


Nature of laughter

Laughter is a common response to tickling
Two girls laughing

Laughter is an audible expression or appearance of happiness, an inward feeling of joy or humor (laughing on the inside). It may ensue (as a physiological reaction) from jokes, tickling, and other stimuli. Strong laughter can sometimes bring an onset of tears or even moderate muscular pain. Recently researchers have shown infants as early as 17 days old have vocal laughing sounds or laughter. Early Human Development 2006This conflicts with earlier studies indicating that infants usually start to laugh at about four months of age. Robert R. Provine, Ph.D. has spent decades studying laughter. In his interview for WebMD, he indicated "Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.” Everyone can laugh. Babies have the ability to laugh before they ever speak. Children who are born blind and deaf still retain the ability to laugh.

Provine argues that “Laughter is primitive, an unconscious vocalization.” And if it seems you laugh more than others, Provine argues that it probably is genetic. In a study of the “Giggle Twins,” two exceptionally happy twins were separated at birth and not reunited until 43 years later. Provine reports that “until they met each other, neither of these exceptionally happy ladies had known anyone who laughed as much as she did.” They reported this even though they both had been brought together by their adoptive parents, whom they indicated were “undemonstrative and dour.” Provine indicates that the twins “inherited some aspects of their laugh sound and pattern, readiness to laugh, and perhaps even taste in humor.” WebMD 2002

Norman Cousins, who suffered from arthritis, developed a recovery program incorporating megadoses of Vitamin C, along with a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep," he reported. "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval." He wrote about these experiences in several books.[2][3]

Research has noted the similarity in forms of laughter among various primates (humans, gorillas, orang-utans...), suggesting that laughter derives from a common origin among primate species, and has subsequently evolved in each species.[4]

A very rare neurological condition has been observed whereby the sufferer is unable to laugh out loud, a condition known as aphonogelia.[5]

Laughter and the brain

Principal fissures and lobes of the cerebrum viewed laterally. (Frontal lobe is blue, temporal lobe is green.)

Modern neurophysiology states that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which produces endorphins after a rewarding activity.

Research has shown that parts of the limbic system are involved in laughter[citation needed]. The limbic system is a primitive part of the brain that is involved in emotions and helps us with basic functions necessary for survival. Two structures in the limbic system are involved in producing laughter: the amygdala and the hippocampus[citation needed].

The December 7, 1984 Journal of the American Medical Association describes the neurological causes of laughter as follows:

"Although there is no known 'laugh center' in the brain, its neural mechanism has been the subject of much, albeit inconclusive, speculation. It is evident that its expression depends on neural paths arising in close association with the telencephalic and diencephalic centers concerned with respiration. Wilson considered the mechanism to be in the region of the mesial thalamus, hypothalamus, and subthalamus. Kelly and co-workers, in turn, postulated that the tegmentum near the periaqueductal grey contains the integrating mechanism for emotional expression. Thus, supranuclear pathways, including those from the limbic system that Papez hypothesised to mediate emotional expressions such as laughter, probably come into synaptic relation in the reticular core of the brain stem. So while purely emotional responses such as laughter are mediated by subcortical structures, especially the hypothalamus, and are stereotyped, the cerebral cortex can modulate or suppress them."

Laughter and health

A positive link has been found between laughter and a healthy function of blood vessels with laughter causing such tissues that form using the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand such to increase blood flow.[6]


Late 19th century or early 20th century depiction of different stages of laughter on advertising cards

Common causes for laughter are sensations of joy and humor, however other situations may cause laughter as well.

A general theory that explains laughter is called the relief theory. Sigmund Freud summarized it in his theory that laughter releases tension and "psychic energy". This theory is one of the justifications of the beliefs that laughter is beneficial for one's health.[7] This theory explains why laughter can be as a coping mechanism for when one is upset, angry or sad.

Philosopher John Morreall theorizes that human laughter may have its biological origins as a kind of shared expression of relief at the passing of danger. Friedrich Nietzsche, by contrast, suggested laughter to be a reaction to the sense of existential loneliness and mortality that only humans feel.

For example, this is how this theory works in the case of humor: a joke creates an inconsistency, the sentence appears to be not relevant, and we automatically try to understand what the sentence says, supposes, doesn't say, and implies; if we are successful in solving this 'cognitive riddle', and we find out what is hidden within the sentence, and what is the underlying thought, and we bring foreground what was in the background, and we realize that the surprise wasn't dangerous, we eventually laugh with relief. Otherwise, if the inconsistency is not resolved, there is no laugh, as Mack Sennett pointed out: "when the audience is confused, it doesn't laugh" (this is the one of the basic laws of a comedian, called "exactness"). It is important to note that the inconsistency may be resolved, and there may still be no laugh. Due to the fact that laughter is a social mechanism, we may not feel like we are in danger, however, the physical act of laughing may not take place. In addition, the extent of the inconsistency (timing, rhythm, etc) has to do with the amount of danger we feel, and thus how intense or long we laugh. This explanation is also confirmed by modern neurophysiology (see section Laughter and the Brain).


See also


  1. ^ Camazine, Deneubourg, Franks, Sneyd, Theraulaz, Bonabeau, Self-Organization in Biological Systems, Princeton University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-691-11624-5 --ISBN 0-691-01211-3 (pbk.) p. 18
  2. ^ Cousins, Norman, The Healing Heart : Antidotes to Panic and Helplessness, New York : Norton, 1983. ISBN 0393018164
  3. ^ Cousins, Norman, Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient : reflections on healing and regeneration, introd. by René Dubos, New York : Norton, 1979. ISBN 0393012522
  4. ^ "Tickled apes yield laughter clue",, June 4, 2009
  5. ^
  6. ^ Vlachopoulos C, Xaplanteris P, Alexopoulos N, Aznaouridis K, Vasiliadou C, Baou K, Stefanadi E, Stefanadis C. (2009). Divergent effects of laughter and mental stress on arterial stiffness and central hemodynamics. Psychosom Med. May;71(4):446-53.PMID 19251872
  7. ^ M.P. Mulder, A. Nijholt (2002) "Humor Research: State of the Art",

Further reading

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Laughter article)

From Wikiquote

Social laughter is momentary, soon burns itself out and passes away like the fire and smokes of straw, but genius shakes the very skies with its lasting, inextinguishable laughter. ~ Boris Sidis

Quotes on laughter, which can be an audible expression of merriment and amusement or an inward feeling of joy and pleasure.



Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. ~ Henry Ward Beecher
Without the laughter, there would be no Tao. ~ Laozi
  • You grow up the first day you have your first good laugh — at yourself.
    • Ethel Barrymore, as quoted in 1,600 Quotes & Pieces of Wisdom That Just Might Help You Out When You're Stuck in a Moment (and Can't Get Out of It!) (2003) by Gary P. Guthrie
  • Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.
  • Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
    • Edmund Burke in the Preface to Brissot's Address to his Constituents (1794)
  • And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
    'Tis that I may not weep.
  • No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
  • It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down.... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
  • I'm struck by how laughter connects you with people. It's almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you're just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.
  • Not living in fear is a great gift, because certainly these days we do it so much. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time—of anything. If you're laughing, I defy you to be afraid.
  • In a dream I saw Jesus and My God Pan sitting together in the heart of the forest.
    They laughed at each other's speech, with the brook that ran near them, and the laughter of Jesus was the merrier. And they conversed long.
    • Khalil Gibran, in Jesus, The Son of Man (1928), "Sarkis an old Greek Shepherd, called the madman: Jesus and Pan"
  • Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.
  • Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.
    • William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, "Lecture I: On Wit and Humour" (1819)
  • Whatever the blooming of a rose or the appearance of the rainbow in dull weather is, a laughing face is the same.
  • All our best men are laughed at in this nightmare land.
  • Laughter is the climax in the tragedy of seeing, hearing and smelling self-consciously.
  • Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, take it and practice it earnestly.
    Scholars of the middle class, when they hear of it, take it half earnestly.
    Scholars of the lowest class, when they hear of it, laugh at it.
    Without the laughter, there would be no Tao.
  • Creator. A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
    • H.L. Mencken, in A Book of Burlesques‎ (1920), p. 203. and A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), Ch. 30; a paraphrase of this has become misattributed to Voltaire:
God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
  • Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.
  • Pour ce que rire est le propre de l'homme.
    • To laugh is proper to man.
    • François Rabelais, Gargantua, Bk. 1, "Rabelais to the Reader" (preface), (1534)
  • Society and its ideal average, normal mediocrity with its pleasing, mannerly, commonplace platitudes may have its fling of jeering at genius for not conforming to social usage and for breaking away from the well-trodden paths of social ruts. Far more effective and deadly are the stones of ridicule cast by the hand of genius at the Philistine Goliath, strong in his brute social power, but dull of wits. Social laughter is momentary, soon burns itself out and passes away like the fire and smokes of straw, but genius shakes the very skies with its lasting, inextinguishable laughter.
  • Stupid people, who do not know how to laugh, are always pompous and self-conceited; that is, ungentle, uncharitable, unchristian.
    • William Makepeace Thackeray, in Sketches and Travels in Londonm : Mr. Brown's Letters to His Nephew (1856), "On Love, Marriage, Men and Women"
  • He laughs best who laughs last.
    • John Vanbrugh, The Country House, Act II, sc. v (1706). Compare an older formulation of the proverbial notion:
    • Laugh on laugh on my freind Hee laugheth best that laugheth to the end.
      • Anonymous Jacobean student play. Source: Frederic S. Boas (ed.) The Christmas Prince. An account of the St. John's College Revels held at Oxford in 1607-8, from the original manuscript in the college library (London: Malone Society, 1923) p. 109
  • Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone.


  • I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.
  • Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
    • Victor Borge
  • A laugh to be joyous must flow from a joyous heart, for without kindness there can be no true joy.
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, next they fight you. Then you win.
  • At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
  • Laughter is a most healthful exertion; it is one of the greatest helps to digestion with which I am acquainted.
  • A laugh is worth a hundred groans in any market.
  • A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have.
  • They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
  • Laugh at yourself and smile at others!
    • Leonid S. Sukhorukov
  • Don't be an olive-wreath stuffer—let it out!
  • One good, hearty laugh is a bombshell exploding in the right place, while spleen and discontent are a gun that kicks over the man who shoots it off.
  • In a comedy, laughs don't hurt.
    • David Picker
  • It better befits a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.

Unknown author

  • Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.
    • Variant: Blessed are they that can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.
  • Live, laugh, love.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up laughter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to laugh article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Old English hlæhhan, hlihhan, hliehhan, cognate with Old Norse hlæja (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish le), Old High German hlahhan (German lachen), Gothic 𐌷𐌻𐌰𐌷𐌾𐌰𐌽 (hlahjan).





laugh (plural laughs)


 Laughhelp, file

  1. An expression of mirth particular to the human species; the sound heard in laughing; laughter.
    • 1803 The Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith, M.B.: With an Account of His Life Page 45: And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind. — Oliver Goldsmith
    • 1869 Lectures and Addresses on Literary and Social Topics Page 87: That man is a bad man who has not within him the power of a hearty laugh. — F. W. Robertson
  2. Something that provokes mirth or scorn.
    • 1921, Ring W. Lardner, The Big Town: How I and the Mrs. Go to New York to See Life and Get Katie a Husband, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, page 73:
      “And this rug,” he says, stomping on an old rag carpet. “How much do you suppose that cost?”
      It was my first guess, so I said fifty dollars.
      That’s a laugh,” he said. “I paid two thousand for that rug.”


Derived terms

  • a laugh a minute
  • for a laugh
  • have a laugh
  • have the last laugh



to laugh

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to laugh (third-person singular simple present laughs, present participle laughing, simple past and past participle laughed)

  1. (intransitive) To show mirth, satisfaction, or derision, by peculiar movement of the muscles of the face, particularly of the mouth, causing a lighting up of the face and eyes, and usually accompanied by the emission of explosive or chuckling sounds from the chest and throat; to indulge in laughter.
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): Queen Hecuba laughed that her eyes ran o’er. — Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, I-ii
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): He laugheth that winneth. — Heywood’s Prov.
  2. (intransitive, figuratively) To be or appear cheerful, pleasant, mirthful, lively, or brilliant; to sparkle; to sport.
  3. (intransitive) To laugh at, to make an object of laughter or ridicule; to make fun of; to deride.
  4. (transitive) To affect or influence by means of laughter or ridicule.
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): Will you laugh me asleep, for I am very heavy? — Shakespeare, Tempest, II-i
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): I shall laugh myself to death. — Shakespeare, Tempest, II-ii
  5. (transitive) To express by, or utter with, laughter; — with out.
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause. — Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, I-iii



Derived terms

  • he who laughs last laughs best
  • he who laughs last laughs longest
  • laugh away
  • laugh down
  • laughing
  • laugh in someone's face
  • laugh in the sleeve
  • laugh off
  • laugh one out of
  • laugh on the other side of one's face
  • laugh out, laugh out loud
  • laugh out of the other corner of the mouth, laugh out of the other side of the mouth
  • laugh to scorn
  • laugh track
  • laugh up one’s sleeve

Related terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Note: the following were in a translation table for "be or appear gay", which, given the modern meanings, is misleading; the title of this table has now been changed to "be or appear cheerful". The translations therefore need to be checked.

  • Slovene: nasmejan (biti)


  • Anagrams of aghlu
  • Aghul

Simple English

A laugh is a way of showing happiness. It is a noise that a person makes when he hears something funny, like a joke, or is tickled.

Sometimes people laugh when they are not happy. When people are ashamed or embarrassed, sometimes they react by laughing.

There are different ways to laugh. A person can laugh using mostly their voice, mostly their throat, or mostly their nose.

You can write a laugh in different ways. Some people write "ha ha ha", or "he he he", or "hehe". If they are on the internet, they also use "LOL". "LOL" does not sound like a laugh, but it stands for Laughing Out Loud.

Laughter can be observed in human babies from around three or four months and is usually an expression of surprise. Babies' laughter often produces a positive response in adults who will involuntarily copy the child. Video footage, on the YouTube site, of babies laughing was shown to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit, on 16 October 2008, to the Google headquarters, where both she and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh were reduced to 'fits of giggles'.[1]



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