Definitions

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

  • n. Light good-natured talk; banter.
  • n. Light or frivolous manner of discussing a subject.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Good-natured banter; raillery.
  • n. Frivolous, lighthearted discussion of a topic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Frivolous or bantering talk; a frivolous manner of treating any subject, whether serious or otherwise; light raillery.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Light, flippant banter; idle, bantering talk or humor; an ironical, frivolous, or jeering style of treating or regarding a subject, however serious it may be.

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

  • n. light teasing

Etymologies

French, from persifler, to banter : per-, intensive pref. (from Latin; see per-) + siffler, to whistle (from Old French, from Late Latin sīfilāre, alteration of Latin sībilāre).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French, from persifler, from per- + siffler ("to whistle"), from Latin sībilō ("whistle") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I asked her if she really thought dangerous papist ideas were kneaded in with the bread, but she would not listen to my mild "persiflage," and went away rather anxious about my spiritual welfare.

    Chateau and Country Life in France

  • One hopes there will always be a "persiflage" like that of

    Suspended Judgments Essays on Books and Sensations

  • Jeanie knew that there was a kind of persiflage – though she did not know the word nor yet what it meant – in which marriage was spoken of as bondage, and it was said of a man that he was going up for execution on his marriage-day.

    Kirsteen: The Story of a Scotch Family Seventy Years Ago

  • It is a note of ironic persiflage which is plainly indicated to the reader.

    The Youth of Goethe

  • 'persiflage'; for silent gesticulations, which you would be most inclined to, would not be sufficient: something must be said, but that something, when analyzed, must amount to nothing.

    Complete Project Gutenberg Earl of Chesterfield Works

  • Jeering at the White Logic, I go out to join my guests at table, and with assumed seriousness to discuss the current magazines and the silly doings of the world's day, whipping every trick and ruse of controversy through all the paces of paradox and persiflage.

    Chapter 37

  • I could neither laugh with nor at the solemn utterances of men I esteemed ponderous asses; nor could I laugh, nor engage in my old-time lightsome persiflage, with the silly superficial chatterings of women, who, underneath all their silliness and softness, were as primitive, direct, and deadly in their pursuit of biological destiny as the monkeys women were before they shed their furry coats and replaced them with the furs of other animals.

    Chapter 29

  • These are the sort of longings lying semidormant in the heart of a man busy in the stratagems and persiflage of the art market.

    Alan Hollinghurst On Michael Cunningham: The New York Review Of Books

  • All clearly intended to be repellent, and, sadly, achieving its aim, in what seemed -- as it was meant to be -- an endless barrage of persiflage, bad poetry, and egotism, in which I, like the character played with immaculate restraint by David Hyde Pierce, cringed and prayed for flight.

    Gwen Davis: La Bete

  • Valere is meant to be a street player lifted to societal acclaim by a deluded royal Joanna Lumley, who mistakes his endless persiflage for true poetry, and makes him the writer de jour, entertained and adored by high society.

    Gwen Davis: La Bete

Comments

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  • Mentioned in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado": Act II, scene 8. Ko-Ko: "Is this a time for airy persiflage?"

    November 5, 2007

  • I recall first hearing this phrase in the jocular "superfluous persiflage," as in "Cut the superfluous persiflage and get back to work."

    Something like idle chitchat

    June 29, 2007

  • Page 54 of Life With Jeeves by Wodehouse.

    May 28, 2007

  • The time straying toward infidelity and confections and persiflage he withholds by steady faith. Preface 1855

    December 9, 2006