• Merry and lighthearted
  • Inclined to joking or comical in nature


There's a clown in every family. Whether it's an uncle who teaches all the cousins how to use a whoopee cushion, a little sister who tests her comedy routine at the dinner table, or a grandpa who's always cracking borderline-inappropriate jokes, we all have one jocose relation who always seems determined to get a few chuckles. Their antics may be groan-worthy, but if we're lucky, these family members can lift our spirits and make us feel a little sunnier. In fact, helping others to feel more jocose might just be their aim in the first place!

Jocose is an adjective that's best used to describe someone who's in a good mood. Implying a sense of cheer and good humor, the word can characterize a person as someone who'd be fun to trade crazy stories with. Jocose can also describe a setting as being a great opportunity to have a good time. You might sing carols, exchange gifts, and play silly games with your coworkers at a jocose office Christmas party (and then, the morning after, marvel at how those same people could ever have been so jocose). Frequently, the term is used to relate specifically to a joking mood or to instances of comedy. A jocose person is often thought of as a jokester, a guy who will walk around telling silly puns and happily making plans for April Fool's day. Of course, the word gives no indication on how such playfulness will be received by others....

In a bit of an oxymoronic twist, jocose is actually something of a formal, stilted term, one you're most likely to encounter in erudite settings (especially if you get roped into a conversation with a lexicographer in a merry mood). For this reason, the word might be better suited to describe something like an Oscar Wilde play than an Adam Sandler movie. However, this sense of affectedness does not make the word in any way exclusive; anything trying to be funny can be jocose, even if the jokes fall flat.

Example: Despite the gray, drizzly day, the jocose old man still strolled down the street with a spring in his step and a grin on his lips.

Example: The little girl toddled gleefully around the petting zoo, a jocose smile on her face.

Example: After a few minutes, the clown's jocose pratfalls had his audience rolling with laughter.


If you're not one for complex lineages, the ancestry of jocose should put you in a good mood. The word originated as the Latin noun iocus, which alternately describes either "a gag or joke" or "an amusing diversion (like a game of catch, or whatever the Roman equivalent was)." This in turn gave rise to the adjective iocosus (for "a humorous or joking manner"), from which jocose would be directly derived. The word first appeared in English in the late seventeenth century.

Derivative Words

Jocoseness/Jocosity: Both of these nouns describe a sense of humorousness and good cheer.

Example: The history teacher's goofiness and penchant for outlandish costumes lent his classes an air of jocoseness.

Example: Despite their teacher's jocosity, the history students knew to expect nothing but seriousness on their exams.

Jocosely: This adverb describes an action as being related to merriment and comedy.

Example: To illustrate to his students the fervor of the California Gold Rush, the history teacher jocosely imitated an eager prospector, complete with silly accent.

Similar Words

You may have noticed the similarities in pronunciation and meaning between jocose and the more common word joke. Although the words are not derivatives of one another, they both share a common ancestry with the Latin iocus. The adjective jocular, which specifically describes something as "amusing" or "comical," is also formed from this same Latin root. Similarly jolly, jocund, and jovial are three words which, while not strictly indicative of humor, are all used to characterize someone as being in a cheerful, playful mood.

In Literature

From Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness:

I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.

Here, jocose is used somewhat ironically to create a gruesome and sinister scene. The cheerful expression described serves as a creepy contrast to the horrible shrunken head that owns it.


  • Jocose knows good jokes


Humor, Cheer, Clowns

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of jocose. Did you use jocose in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.