The meanings of the word funny can be loosely separated into two groups: humorous and non-humorous. This simple distinction is often referred to as “ funny ha-ha or funny peculiar.” Students may be more familiar with the word funny in reference to things that are humorous or silly than the non-humorous meanings, such as curious or odd.
Students may encounter both definition categories in the texts they read. A fictional young hero may look for a villain in an abandoned house and something might feel funny about the house. In this context, the meaning of funny is not humorous; rather, funny means that something feels unusual or odd. This feeling may help the hero find and defeat the villain. In a different story, the class clown may say a funny joke in front of her classmates at school. This use of the word funny refers to the humorous use of the word.
The etymology if the word funny begins with the word fun. Funny is the word fun with the suffix of -y. Fun originates from the word fon, meaning to be foolish or make a fool of.
The word fon has not been used since the 15th century. The suffix -y descends from Old English and generally means “having the qualities of.” Interestingly, it was not until the early 1800’s in the American South that the word funny evolved from its comical, foolish origin to also mean strange or odd.
Neither fun nor funny have a Spanish cognate, but some relevant synonyms do. For example, the cognate of comical is cómico.
In the 1870’s, comic strips in the newspapers in Canada and the United States began to be called funnies. During the 1920-1950’s it was common to say “see you in the funny papers,” as an ironic farewell or goodbye.