All About Droll Humor and Being A Droll Person (Explained)


Droll humor and being a droll person are actually commonly misunderstood concepts. As a teacher of English for many years, I became aware of this misconception while teaching students vocabulary lessons. So what should you know about droll humor and what it means to be called a droll person?

Droll humor and being a droll person are often misconstrued concepts. By definition, droll means whimsical with an odd bent, though it’s sometimes confused for dull and boring. Being called a droll person typically means having a dry, ironic sense of humor, but could indicate you’re a jokester.

Even I’m surprised at times to learn that the common way we use some words aren’t actually aligned with their textbook meaning. Now it’s true that words evolve over time, but this is more than that.

One way to build humor with your kids is to use it strategically through routines or regular activities. For instance, our Fun Jokes For Kids Coloring Book is a great tool for embedding humor through kid-friendly activity.

For instance, droll is a word that really shocks kids with it’s actual meaning and how it’s used in ‘real life.’ Read on to learn more about this fascinating word, and what it means for humor, and whether or not you should be offended if called droll!

What is meant by ‘droll’?

Colonel Hathi’s March, also known as ‘The Elephant Song’ from Disney’s The Jungle Book (available on Amazon Prime) contains the word, ‘droll.’

Let’s begin by explaining what droll actually means according to its true definition, and perceptions of what it means.

Droll means humorous, whimsical, and odd in a funny way. But today’s connotation associates it with being dull, dry, and/or boring. It may be due to how it sounds; it’s archaic usage; and similarities to words like dull or drool. As well, a droll comedian leans more to comedic oddity than whimsy.

As a teacher of high school English, as well as being an English language specialist for language learners, I have spent countless hours teaching vocabulary. One way I’d do this is to provide parts of speech instruction for the targeted words to learn, and include examples of how to use the words in sentences.

Here’s a table outlining ‘droll’ in that way.

Part of SpeechMeaningExample
Adjective- most common usage“having a humorous, whimsical, or odd quality”Though not slapstick comedy or laugh out loud funny, the student managed to engage the class with his droll impersonation of the teacher.
Noun“an amusing person”British comedians are apt to be wry and dark, with a bit of droll thrown in too.
Verb“to make fun”In her stand-up comedy she drolled out self-deprecating one-liners.
Table for Defining Droll According to Parts of Speech from Merriam-Webster

Another activity to help students learn new words is to look at their common synonyms and antonyms. This way it gives them a well-rounded concept of the words of study. Let’s look at this for droll.

Synonyms for Droll-

  • Adjective examples: chucklesome; comedic; farcical; funny; hilarious; hysterical; and ludicrous
  • Noun examples: card; comedian; funnyman; gagster; jester; and jokester

Antonyms for Droll-

  • humorless; lame; unamusing; somber; serious; and boring

After this, the next step would be to have students apply the words themselves in simulated scenarios, or to simply write their own sentences using the word. Depending on individual student needs, I may provide them with real-life examples where the word was used, from newspapers; story books; movies; and such.

So why is droll frequently confused with boring, dry, and dull? Now that we see the true meaning of it, how did this happen or come about?

It seems to me that common usage of droll today indicates someone or something ‘boring’, or dry and dull. Dull makes sense in a way because it actually sounds like droll. As well, the word, drool, is associated with boring and dull things, and that sounds a bit like droll too. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

There’s just one letter separating droll from drool, and just maybe there’s a reason for that.

Another cause that likely has contributed to the misunderstanding of ‘droll’ is that it’s hardly used today. I don’t hear many people referring to others as droll, and when researching for ‘droll comedians’, I was instead taken to dry or deadpan lists.

In my research of the word, I noticed a 1960 season of The Flintstones in which ‘droll’ is used in several episodes.

Today this word is not once mentioned in SpongeBob SquarePants (in my cursory search) but you’ll find it in several dark humor movies or wry comedies like The Sopranos (season 2 episode 11); Big Bang Theory (season 5 episode 7); Family Guy (season 4 episode 15); and South Park (season 16 episode 3).

Oh, Brian, how droll! We'll have to put that into a cartoon.

So once the word, droll, was understood clearly, then, I’d have them think about what does that mean if a person is called droll. We’ll consider that in the following section.

What is a droll person?

As mentioned before, droll is used in several Flintstones episodes (which you can watch for free with a trial Boomerang membership). For instance, Fred says it in episodes 5 and 11 of season 1, while Wilma uses it in episode 6 of the same season. But not once is it to refer to someone as ‘droll’, rather it’s about something being droll. So what’s a droll person, then?

Today a droll person is commonly thought of having a dry, witty, deadpan sense of humor. It’s also frequently used for someone sarcastic. By definition, a droll person could simply mean a humorous, whimsical, jokester. Being called droll isn’t an insult even though it’s often mistaken for dull.

https://youtu.be/OjsTloR1NLo
Episode 11 season 1 of the 1960s animated series The Flintstones shows Fred saying, ‘droll, very droll’.

Some people referred to as ‘droll’ today are generally comedians, or comedic actors portraying characters, with quick wit; comic view of things; and intelligent humor. Ricky Gervais is an example of a comedian who could be considered ‘droll.’

Characters like Sheldon on The Big, Bang Theory is known as a droll person. He’s smart; very quick with a ‘comeback’, and has a dry delivery verging on sarcastic or insulting. Another character thought of as ‘droll’ is Ron Swanson from Parks and Recs. Like Sheldon, Ron’s not meant to be funny but his extreme seriousness provides a dry, stark contrast to the bubbly Leslie Knope.

Other Fun Jokes articles related to droll humor, I think you’ll like:

Is it bad to be called a droll person?

So is it insulting if someone calls you droll? Is it bad to be known as a droll person?

In the true sense of the word, being called a droll person is not insulting or bad. Due to the misconception of the word with dull or boring, it may be intended as negative. In all likelihood, though, being referred to as droll probably means others think you’re quick-witted and/or sarcastic.

So if this happens, you have to ask yourself, ‘why is someone calling you droll?’ What’s the context? Are you known as someone who is fast with a come-back or cracking jokes? Do you often add some wry or ironic humor?

If so, then it’s meant as an accurate description, and not as an insult.

However, are you generally sarcastic? If so, do people laugh at your sarcasm or do you seem like a ‘Negative Nancy’? One of the biggest problems with using a lot of sarcasm is that it can come off as being unhappy, bitter, and negative and not at all funny.

If you think this is the intention of being referred to as a droll person, it might be time to check your attitude and work on some positivity in your life. The Mayo Clinic advises working on positive thinking and outlook to reduce your stress, and thus, increase your overall health and well-being.

Can kids be droll?

What does this mean as far as kids are concerned? Is it okay for kids to be considered droll?

Kids can be considered droll if it means being humorous, whimsical, oddly comical, and/or hilarious. Those traits can enhance relationships and quality of life. However, if droll means being sarcastic, dry, or having deadpan humor, this can be seen as negative and disrespectful for children.

Kids like the Young Sheldon character, and real-life actor who portrays him, are known as droll and that is not necessarily good. In the TV series, the Sheldon character is insulting and his droll humor exacerbates his extreme differences from others and makes it difficult for him to form healthy bonds and simply ‘have fun.’

The kid actor Iain Armitage from Young Sheldon (available to watch free with a Paramount Plus trial membership) might be accurately described as ‘droll’.

It’s also obvious that the actor Iain Armitage who plays ‘young Sheldon’ has a droll sense of humor, too, from his superb delivery on the show to his many interviews.

However, this young man can enjoy his droll humor in real-life as long as his is able to reign it in when it comes to sarcasm and keep his tone light and good-natured. In many ways, it shows his high intelligence and can be a tool to open many professional doors.

Droll Vs. Boring

So is droll the same as being boring? If someone says, ‘you’re so droll!’, does that mean they think you’re uninteresting?

Droll is not the same as being boring. Droll means to be funny, humorous, comical, and whimsical. It also implies an oddity and unusual sense of humor. All of these words are near-opposites or antonyms, in fact, to boring.

Boring means drab, dreary, dry, and dull. Since dry and dull are sometimes confused with ‘droll’, it’s probably why boring is too.

Droll Vs. Dry or Deadpan

But what about droll and dry and deadpan? Are they the same thing?

Droll is not exactly the same as dry when dry means serious and boring. Droll is associated with dry and deadpan humor (near synonyms) when referring to humor that has a somber tone, expressionless delivery, and often includes sarcasm and irony.

So, droll and dry, deadpan humor can be interchanged in some contexts.

However, today we are much more likely to refer to comedians who use this type of humor as dry and deadpan, possibly even dark, instead of calling them droll.

“Remembered for his droll style — Macdonald would prove one of the most impactful “Update” anchors, pivoting away from the slapstick approach of Chevy Chase and toward the more barbed political approach of his successor, Colin Quinn.”

Greg Evans, Deadline, 2021

A very famous comedian known for droll humor is the late Norm MacDonald, who past away in 2021. This comedian had a deadpan expression during his funny delivery of lines, giving off a dry humor style. It’s a more modern connotation of the word ‘droll’.

The Droll Punchline

So what’s the punchline about droll humor or being called a droll person? While it may not seem complimentary, in fact, the meaning of droll is not insulting at all. It means, basically, you’re a funny person, with a whimsical, albeit odd, witty sense of humor. I would not find that negative.

However, droll has a slightly negative connotation today, some even confusing it with the words, boring, dry, and dull.

The type of humor most associated with being droll is deadpan humor; sarcastic humor; and use of irony.

For more Fun Jokes articles related to droll humor, I suggest reading these:

Jackie Booe

A mother to four kids, grandmother ("Oma") to a growing number, a retired teacher for over 18 years, and a wife to Mat since 1994, Jackie knows kids and laughter. She holds a license to teach in 3 states and is certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners, with practical experience at all levels. She holds three degrees in the field of education and has taught education courses online at the university level as an adjunct professor, too. She has mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, in addition to homeschooling her own children.

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