What does retort mean? You’re about to find out!
Quick Vocab Quiz for the word retort
First, before you read the explanation, definition, and discussion of the word retort, try this quick vocab quiz:
retort most nearly means
(A) send (B) evade (C) make pure (D) reply (E) steal
Part of Speech: VERB or NOUN
Pronunciations: IPA: /rɪ.ˈtɔrt/ Glossary-style: [rih-TOWRT]
Definition: verb: reply or reply with, especially in a quick, witty, or angry way. make a counterargument or return a comment, insult, or the like. noun: a reply, especially a quick, witty, or angry one that counters something already said.
Example: When people made fun of Henrietta for being short, she always imagined retorting with “I didn’t choose to be short, but you just chose to be rude”, but she politely kept that comment to herself.
Discussion: The word retort can be used as either a verb or a noun, but it seems more common to be used as a verb. Of course, all the usages are related.
All of the usages of the word have in common the sense of responding to something that someone said in a way that is quick, perhaps aggressive, defensive, or witty. In other words, the response is one that’s not entirely expected, and somehow puts the speaker on alert, so to speak.
So, if you make a retort, you may be defending yourself against something that someone said, or you may be insulting someone for a perceived slight. Witty retorts are a staple of comedy, and they often embody what we wish we had said in a certain situation, even if we could think of a witty reply only as we were experiencing esprit de l’escalier, or “staircase wit”.