The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or figurative language. A pun differs from a malapropism in that a malapropism is an incorrect variation on a correct expression, while a pun involves expressions with multiple correct interpretations. Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, as their usage and meaning are specific to a particular language and its culture.
Puns have a long history in human writing. Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs were originally based on punning systems, and the Roman playwright Plautus was famous for his puns and word games. Punning has been credited as the fundamental concept behind alphabets, writing, and even human civilization.