Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sound made in imitation of laughter.
  • n. Slang An instance of amusement. Often used in the plural: drove past the old school just for ha-has.
  • interj. Used to express amusement or scorn.
  • n. See sunk fence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • interj. An approximation of the sound of laughter.
  • n. A laugh.
  • n. Something funny; a joke.
  • n. A ditch with one vertical side, acting as a sunken fence, designed to block the entry of animals into lawns and parks without breaking sightlines.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A sunk fence; a fence, wall, or ditch, not visible till one is close upon it.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • An imitation of the sound of laughter. See ha.
  • n. A fence formed by a foss or ditch, sunk between slopes and not perceived till approached; a sunk fence. Also written aha, haw-haw.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a loud laugh that sounds like a horse neighing
  • n. a ditch with one side being a retaining wall; used to divide lands without defacing the landscape

Etymologies

French, exclamation of surprise, ha-ha (from its being designed not to be seen until closely approached).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Imitative. (Wiktionary)
From French haha, supposedly from ha! as an expression of surprise. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Hannah: Are you a journalist?
    Bernard: (Shocked) No!
    Hannah: (Resuming) I've been in the ha-ha. Very squelchy.
    Bernard: (Unexpectedly) Ha-hah!
    Hannah: What?
    Bernard: A theory of mine. Ha-hah, not ha-ha. If you were strolling down the garden and all of a sudden the ground gave way at your feet, you're not going to go 'ha-ha', you're going to jump back and go 'ha-hah', or more probably 'Bloody 'ell' . . . though personally I think old Murray was up the pole on that one - in France, you know, 'ha-ha' is used to denote a strikingly ugly woman, a much more likely bet for something that keeps the cows off the lawn.
    (This is not going well for Bernard but he seems blithely unaware.
    Hannah stares at him for a moment.)

    --From Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

    May 8, 2012

  • Came across this wonderful expression in a Mary Balogh book. Need to learn how to add a definition as nothing so far comes close to describing what was and continues to be an awesome landscaping effort from as far back as the time of William the Conqueror. Most interesting is, according to Wikipedia, the note that "The Ha-Ha fence was inspired by Orientalism and the Japanese gardening ideas of concealing barriers with nature." Calling such a ditch seems less than.

    March 8, 2009

  • "(Will you console Zara? Perhaps you have, probing her secret wound with your honey wand, your big, spotted groper lying between her weed-clad walls. Did you give her head-of-state ha-ha? ...)"
    - Germaine Greer, 'Dear John', circa 1969.

    March 28, 2008