Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective So absurd or incongruous as to be laughable. synonym: foolish.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Serving for or exciting sport; laughable from singularity or grotesqueness; adapted to cause sportive laughter or ridicule; absurd.
  • Synonyms Funny, Comical, Droll, Ludicrous, Ridiculous, Laughable. Either the direct action of laughter or a corresponding sentiment is included in the signification of all these terms.
  • In this respect laughable is the generic word, but it is also one of the strongest. Funny is the weakest of the list, ranging from the meaning of ‘amusing’ or ‘odd’ down to its colloquial use in the sense of ‘strange.’ Comical still retains a faint suggestion of its origin in connection with the drama, being primarily used in connection with something done or seen, and hence something viewed by the mind: a comical predicament is just such as would be fit for exhibition in a comedy. Droll especially implies the odd or unfamiliar: as, a droll story, idea, fellow. Ludicrous is an advance in strength upon comical, as comical is an advance upon funny. Ridiculous is the only word in the list that throws contempt or even discredit upon the person concerned: it is allowable to tell a ludicrous story about one's friend, but not a story that makes him appear ridiculous. A thing may be ludicrous, etc., on account of its unreasonableness or violation of common sense; if it is ridiculous, it is certainly on that account. That is laughable which simply provokes a hearty laugh.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Adapted to excite laughter, without scorn or contempt; sportive.
  • adjective Ridiculously absurd.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Idiotic or unthinkable, often to the point of being funny.

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

  • adjective incongruous;inviting ridicule
  • adjective broadly or extravagantly humorous; resembling farce

Etymologies

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

[From Latin lūdicrus, sportive, from lūdus, game; see leid- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First attested in 1619. From Latin lūdicrus, from lūdō ("play").

Examples

Comments

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  • Song quotation on frock.

    September 16, 2008

  • "Synonyms Funny, Comical, Droll, Ludicrous, Ridiculous, Laughable. Either the direct action of laughter or a corresponding sentiment is included in the signification of all these terms.

    In this respect laughable is the generic word, but it is also one of the strongest. Funny is the weakest of the list, ranging from the meaning of ‘amusing’ or ‘odd’ down to its colloquial use in the sense of ‘strange.’ Comical still retains a faint suggestion of its origin in connection with the drama, being primarily used in connection with something done or seen, and hence something viewed by the mind: a comical predicament is just such as would be fit for exhibition in a comedy. Droll especially implies the odd or unfamiliar: as, a droll story, idea, fellow. Ludicrous is an advance in strength upon comical, as comical is an advance upon funny. Ridiculous is the only word in the list that throws contempt or even discredit upon the person concerned: it is allowable to tell a ludicrous story about one's friend, but not a story that makes him appear ridiculous. A thing may be ludicrous, etc., on account of its unreasonableness or violation of common sense; if it is ridiculous, it is certainly on that account. That is laughable which simply provokes a hearty laugh."

    --CD&C

    January 19, 2012

  • I'd say ludicrous and laughable have moved closer to parity with ridiculous since the Century's disquisition. I've also noticed that ludicrous (along with the other synonyms discussed here) is often used to mean unbelievable or incredible - to describe a feat of athletic skill, for example, or a long shift of work, or anything generally impressive.

    January 19, 2012