Double entendre definition: A double entendre is a figure of speech that has more than one meaning.
What is a Double Entendre?
What does double entendre mean? A double entendre literally means two meanings. A double entendre rhetorical device that consists of a word or group of words that has more than one meaning and that can be understood in more than one way.
A double entendre is a type of play on words, and most often, its additional meaning will be risqué.
Double Entendre Example:
- A new weight-loss study requires a larger sample group.
The double entendre here comes from the word “larger.”
- The first meaning is that the group needs to have more participants.
- The second meaning is that the members of the group need to be physically larger.
Modern Examples of Double Entendre
As with many other rhetorical devices, double entendres are present in our everyday life.
Here are a few examples,
- From the movie Silence of the Lambs:
I do wish we could chat longer, but… I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.
In this example, the speaker Hannibal Lecture is a cannibal and is actually having his friend for dinner, instead of just having his friend over for dinner.
- Children make nutritious snacks.
Similar to the last example, this statement could be interpreted to mean that children are making nutritious snacks or that eating children makes a nutritious snack.
The Function of Double Entendre
The double entendre functions as a play on words. It is a way of saying something that might be inappropriate or offensive without actually saying it.
The speaker of the double entendre knows very well his intention. Often, a double entendre is used for comedic relief.
A double entendre is meant to make the audience laugh or think twice. As such, it should only be used with particular placement and purpose. With this in mind, double entendres are often used in comedy plays or in comedic lines of plays.
How Double Entendre is Used in Literature
While not a comedy, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet includes numerous double entendres.
The play itself is sexual in nature—two teenagers are lusting after each other and marry quickly because they want to consummate their marriage.
Furthermore, teenage boys laugh and joke throughout the play. With this in mind, Shakespeare includes double entendres to make their conversations realistic. The double entendre serves this purpose without make overly sexualized statements.
Example from Act 2, scene 4:
Mercutio: ‘Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.
In this example, “bawdy hand” and “prick of noon” serve as the double entendre.
- Mercutio is referring to the hand of the dial on the clock, saying that the actual time is noon.
- Mercutio is making a sexual joke about a “hand” on a “prick.”
Double Entendre Examples in Common Usage
- The book’s title comes not from the snarky 2012 campaign video—the one using double-entendre to encourage young women to vote for Barack Obama—but from a label proudly self-applied in the 19th century by young men who were casting their vote for the first time. –The Wall Street Journal
- Created by Deadpool director Tim Miller, writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, and Reynolds (who performs the monotone voiceover as well as the familiar guy in the mask), it features a few more double entendres, a couple extra “side effects” and shenanigans galore. –USA Today
Define double entendre: the definition of double entendre is a word or phrase that is open to two interpretation, one of which is oftentimes risqué or indecent.
In summary, a double entendre is a figure of speech that has two meanings. It is often intended for comedic relief and is usually sexual in nature.
Double entendres should only be used with purpose (not overused) and should not be intended to cause offense.