Teachers share 10 (hilarious) definitions that their students got completely wrong.


Has your little one ever humorously defined an unfamiliar word? When kids try to give meaning to a word that they’ve never heard, or try to define a word they know only vaguely, the child often draws on the knowledge they do have and bravely take their best shot. The results can be hilarious.

In the tradition of Kids Say The Darndest Things (or the more modern Little Big Shots), The Funny Dictionary: An A-Z of Kids’ Funny Definitions shares hundreds of real-life examples of kids’ funny definitions collected by teachers and examiners across the decades.

Exclusively for Mamamia readers, here are my top 10 funny definitions from The Funny Dictionary:

10. Holy Acrimony!

Evidently confusing the word with alimony, or perhaps matrimony, this kid defined acrimony (which means bitterness or ill-feeling) as ‘What a man gives his divorced wife’. Though, perhaps, the child didn’t confuse the word at all?

9. All Latin to Me. 

Back when kids were taught Latin, this kid was asked to translate Ave Domine. I’ve never learned Latin myself, but from Ave Maria, I know Ave means hail (as in Hail Mary). And I know Domine means Lord from Anno Domini (the year of our Lord). This kid got the ‘Lord’ bit right but wrongly related Ave to avian (relating to birds) when he defined Ave Domine as ‘Lord, I am a bird!’

8. A United State.

This child defined matrimony as ‘One of the United States’, evidently having heard phrases like ‘the state of holy matrimony’. I wonder if the US State of Matrimony is on the east coast or west coast?


7. Such A Dunny Fefinition.

This incorrect definition of spoonerism is adorable. Evidently, the child had heard of spooning before, and so defined a spoonerism thus: ‘A spoonerism is a love affair’. Aw.

6. Uncontrollable Urges.

An erg is a unit of work or energy. This kid must have had some inkling of the word’s meaning when he wrote ‘Erg means to give energy — for example, when you want your friend to do better in a football match, you erg them on.’ Nice work!

5. That Accelerated Quickly.

We all know guys who seem to love their cars more than they love their partners. I am sure this kid won’t grow up to be one of them, even though he mixed up exhilaration with acceleration: ‘Exhilaration: when your car speeds-up really fast.’ Yee-haw!

4. Quick! Pretend You’re Not Looking!

This kid relied on their knowledge of ignore to arrive at their best guess at defining ignition. The child wrote: ‘Ignition is the art of not noticing’. Youngsters typically master this art when they have chores to do.

3. How Bazaar!

I have heard about all kinds of fetishes. But this is going too far! Fetish, the innocent child said, ‘is an adjective for people who enjoy going to fetes.’ That’s just sick!


2. A Book Fixation.

Speaking for myself, I have a book fetish. I love books! But this kid was fixated in a different way. He thought fiction was related to fix when he defined fiction as ‘those books that are fixed on the shelves and are not to be moved; non-fiction are not fixed and may be moved at will.’ How novel!

1. Think Positively.

Most people wrongly think nonplussed means not concerned or not fussed. The word actually means so surprised and confused that you’re unsure how to react. In attempting to define the word, this kid focussed on non (believing it meant not), and plus (believing it meant positive). The natural result for this kid was to define nonpluss as negative.

One of the main purposes of The Funny Dictionary is to put a positive spin on subjects we can sometimes take too seriously. If you’re feeling low, dip into The Funny Dictionary to lift your spirits. Ponder the book’s delightful black and white illustrations from by The National Library’s pictorial collections.

If you’re having a bad day, empathise with these school kids, and use The Funny Dictionary as a reminder that you are not alone.

The Funny Dictionary: An A-Z of Kids’ Funny Definitions is published by the National Library of Australia. Funny and challenging, the book will be available in bookstores from 1 October 2018 and will be formally launched on 16 October 2018. The Funny Dictionary is available for pre-order here.