Sense of Humour – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the phrase 'sense of humour' somewhere and want to know more about the meaning, context, and most common use of the saying? The phrase 'sense of humour' is a common descriptive phrase in the English language that can be used to refer to someone's ability to take a joke. This post unpacks its use and meaning.


The phrase 'sense of humour' is a common figurative saying in the English language that can be used to mean that someone has a good sense to understand a joke.

A 'sense of humour' is not a physical object, but it is implied to be a sense for jokes and humorous situations.

When someone 'has a sense of humour' then the phrase either means that someone is good at making a joke, or a 'good sport' to understand a joke or funny situation.

Sometimes the phrase is spelled as 'sense of humor' in situations where the United States spelling is acceptable, though it will become 'sense of humour' everywhere else.

The phrase can be said as a statement, or expressed as part of a question or response to someone.

A 'good versus bad sense of humour' is something that can be very subjective for the rest of the conversation or situation being discussed or observed.

The opposite of the phrase can also be used to say that someone 'does not have a good sense of humour', 'does not have a sense of humour' or 'has a bad (or terrible) sense of humour'.

Example Usage

“I was just kidding about the pizza, don't you have a sense of humour about these sort of things? There's no need to pull a knife on the restaurant.”

“There's no need to have a bad sense of humour about the whole thing. You're taking the whole joke wrong, we didn't mean to give your grandfather a heart attack with the clown gag.”

“If you don't have a sense of humour, then you're going to hate going to church with my uncle.”

“A sense of humour is one of the most important things you can have in the office. If someone screws up, laugh along and they won't feel as bad about it.”


According to online language resources, the phrase 'sense of humour' could have been around since at least the mid-1700s. admits that the phrase would have risen in popularity since then.

The phrase has meant the same since the early use of the saying, though its first use is not documented.

The saying 'sense of humour' has been absorbed into media, texts, and dictionaries since the 1800s.

Website Urban Dictionary records the use of the phrase in 2004, but lists a second link with the phrase in 2013. Both Urban Dictionary listings give the same, correct meaning of the saying.

Phrases Similar to Sense of Humour

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Phrases Opposite to Sense of Humour

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What is the Correct Saying?

  • Sense of humour

Ways People May Say Sense of Humour Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone might use the term 'sense of humour' in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the saying when it is used.

A 'sense of humour' means that someone can comprehend or make a joke, and 'no sense of humour' means the opposite.

The UK and US spelling of the word ('humour' or 'humor') can be confused with one another.

The phrase can also be misheard or misspelled as 'cents of humour' that does not give a correct phrase.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Sense of Humour

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase 'sense of humour' in the right way.

Someone who 'has a sense of humour' can make (or understand) humour, and someone who does not is implied to have no understanding for humour – or can be said through another expression to be 'dry'.

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