Definitions

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

  • n. Lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate; frivolity.
  • n. Inconstancy; changeableness.
  • n. The state or quality of being light; buoyancy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Lightness of manner or speech, frivolity
  • n. Lack of steadiness
  • n. The state or quality of being light, buoyancy
  • n. A lighthearted or frivolous act

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality of weighing less than something else of equal bulk; relative lightness, especially as shown by rising through, or floating upon, a contiguous substance; buoyancy; -- opposed to gravity.
  • n. Lack of gravity and earnestness in deportment or character; trifling gayety; frivolity; sportiveness; vanity.
  • n. Lack of steadiness or constancy; disposition to change; fickleness; volatility.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Lightness of weight; relatively small specific gravity.
  • n. A tendency to rise by a force contrary to gravity.
  • n. Lightness of spirit or temper.
  • n. Carelessness of temper or conduct; want of seriousness; disposition to trifle; inconstancy; volatility: as, the levity of youth.
  • n. Synonyms . Levity, Volatility, Flightiness, Frivolity, Lightness. All these words are founded upon the idea of the lack of physical and, by figure, of mental and moral substance or weight, with a resulting ease in flying away from what is wise. The first three refer especially to outward conduct. Levity is a want of seriousness, temporary or habitual, a disposition to trifle with important interests. Volatility is that moral defect by which one cannot dwell long upon any one object of thought, or turns quickly from one source of pleasure to another: the word does not convey much opprobrium; in the young some degree of volatility is expected. Flightiness borders upon the loss of sanity in caprice or excitement of fancy; it is volatility in an extreme degree. Frivolity is a matter of nature, an inability to care about any but the most petty and trifling things. Lightness is not so strong as frivolity, but covers nearly the same ground; it emphasizes inconstancy.

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

  • n. a manner lacking seriousness
  • n. feeling an inappropriate lack of seriousness

Etymologies

Latin levitās, from levis, light; see legwh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Coined in 1564, from Latin levitas ("lightness, frivolity"), from levis ("lightness (in weight)"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • He had no patience with levity from the lips of softness.

    THE TASTE OF THE MEAT

  • “Hooray” adds a certain levity to a written sentence and literally brings a smile to any face when spoken (just say and word and the pronunciation will literally cause your mouth to form a smile-like shape).

    blog – syllable studio

  • A bit of levity is good for ones soul occasionally.

    Letter From San Cristobal

  • "Would that, for the sake of herself and her beautiful daughter ... would that for the sake of public morality, Mrs. Robinson were persuaded to dismiss the gloomy phantom of annihilation; to think seriously of a future rebribution; and to communicate to the world a recantation of errors that originated in levity, and have been nursed by pleasure."

    Editorial Notes to 'Letter to the Women of England'

  • A little levity is good during a press conference, but his remarks are always critical or insulting.

    Think Progress » President Bush To Legally Blind Reporter: ‘Are You Going to Ask That Question with Shades On?’

  • These personalities are acceptable, it seems, even in the midst of the most disastrous crisis of modern history, and we only wish that we could discern in the fact that levity is tolerated, any proof that is thought there will be no actual appeal to arms.

    London, Saturday, January 26, 1861.

  • And, Mary fairly lost to him, his constitutional indifference to money, a certain French levity of temper,

    Lucretia — Volume 01

  • Grave: levity is unbecoming in any, but especially in the aged; they should be composed and stayed, grave in habit, speech, and behaviour; gaudiness in dress, levity and vanity in the behaviour, how unbeseeming in their years!

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation)

  • [369] M. Schlegel rather wantonly accuses Deianira of "levity" -- all her motives, on the contrary, are pure and high, though tender and affectionate.

    Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete

  • a certain French levity of temper, a persuasion that his life was nearing its wasted close, had left him without regret, as without resentment, at his kinsman's decision.

    Lucretia — Complete

Comments

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  • Came across this yesterday reading Henry James and I thought, what a nice word. I was looking for such a word recently in one of my translations and it didn't occur to me (I used "mirth" instead, another great word). And yet it's not an unusual word, not archaic, just a little dusty. When was the last time I used "levity" in a sentence when I wasn't saying, facetiously, "This is no time for levity"?

    July 29, 2013