Difference Between Wit and Humor

Key Difference – Wit vs Humor

Wit and humor are two techniques used by individuals between which some difference can be understood. Both are used as literary devices in works of art. Although most people consider humor and wit as consisting of similar characteristic, there is a clear distinction between the two words. First, let us define the two words. Wit can be defined as a keen intelligence that an individual has. A witty individual can make remarks that have a sense of intelligence. Humor, on the other hand, has to be understood as the quality of being amusing. The key difference between the two is that while wit emphasizes intelligence through humor, the latter does not. Through this article let us attempt to clarify the difference between the two words.

What is Wit?

First let us begin with the word wit. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, wit can be understood as keen intelligence or else a natural talent for using words and ideas in quick, amusing ways. Wit has to be understood as a sharpness of the mind. A witty person can respond quickly to situations in such a manner that they can highlight their sharpness of mind. Wit certainly arouses amusement in the listener, but it may not always be funny.

Wit can be used even to criticize and even point out the flaws of another through an amusing manner. In such a situation, the person does not directly attacks the individual but uses words in such a way that it works as a criticism. For an example, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Bennet are praised for their witty nature. Both are fine examples of witty individuals who use their sharpness of mind to create amusement while emphasizing the flaws of another. (During Mr. Collins first visit to the Bennets)

Difference Between Wit and Humor

Mr. Collins and Elizabeth Bennet of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

What is Humor?

Humor can be defined as the quality of being amusing. For an example, imagine a situation where something humorous happened to you such as slipping on a banana peel or pronouncing a word wrong. You may find many instances that made you laugh. These are situations of humor. Humor does not have to be related to a situation alone. It can be something you heard, a book you read, even be a comedy show that you watched. Whenever you remember it, it makes you laugh. Hence, humor has to be understood as a feeling.

A clear difference between wit and humor is that, unlike wit, it always results in amusement. A person who is gifted with humor is not only easy to be around, but it is also a pleasant, lively experience. The people who are around such an individual feel happy and positive. Hence, humor can create a positive vibe around others as well.

Whether a person is very small, or very old, everyone enjoys humor irrespective of age. However, in some situations, what is humorous to one person may not be so for another. For example, imagine a situation where one person laughs at another for his appearance, attire, etc. In such a context, although it may be humorous for one individual, it may be painful for another. This is why it is essential to be conscious of people’s background, culture, appearance, religion, and similar factors when generating humor at the expense of others.

This highlights that although there is a connection between wit and humor they should not be considered as identical. The difference between the two can be summarized as follows.

Wit vs Humor

What is the Difference Between Wit and Humor?

Definitions of Wit and Humor:

Wit: Wit can be defined as keen intelligence or else a natural talent for using words and ideas in quick, amusing ways.

Humor: Humor can be defined as the quality of being amusing.

Characteristics of Wit and Humor:


Wit: Wit uses intelligence.

Humor: Humor uses feeling.


Wit: Wit displays intelligence.

Humor: Humor may or may not display intelligence.


Wit: Wit can be used to criticize others.

Humor: Humor is not used for criticism.


Image Courtesy:
1. Thomson-PP11 By Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) (Lilly Library, Indiana University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Titelseite "Berliner Humor" 1950 By Walter Fürstenau [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons