A double entendre is a word or phrase that can be interpreted in two ways. Usually, when it comes to words or phrases referred to as double entendres, one of the meanings is sexually suggestive or otherwise improper. The phrase is also used as a mass noun for humor using double meanings and innuendo.
Double and entendre are French words, but the phrase, which translates literally to double hear, is not used in French. The French equivalent is double entente, which literally means double understanding.1
The English plural is double entendres (ignore spell check). The phrase has been in English for hundreds of years,2 so there’s no need to italicize it. It generally doesn’t require a hyphen, though a hyphen is perhaps justified when it functions as a phrasal adjective (e.g., in the phrase double-entendre humor).
Below, we’ve included several examples that both show the phrase in action and provide examples of double entendres.
A new McDonald’s advertising billboard using a questionable double entendre has courted controversy … The ad … uses the slogan “a price to make your sausage sizzle”. [Courier Mail]
For a well-bred, horse-loving mother of five, Ann Romney sure has a way with the double entendre. Asked what could be done to improve voters’ connection with her buttoned-up husband …, Ann declared: “we better unzip him.” [New Republic]
Since then, he has established himself as a charismatic front man and assured singer/songwriter who alternates between songs such as the funky double entendre “Butter My Biscuits” to the somber, soulful “Never Seen it Coming.” [Bradenton Herald]
Last weekend he insisted that he would not go, even if the GOP establishment believes voters “need to have Romney shoved down their throats”. Oh Santorum, how we’ll miss your weirdly double entendre ways. [Guardian]
I really enjoyed how, when I stated that I was not a licensed psychotherapist … and that I thus consider myself a “lay therapist,” that there was some laughter on the panel and in the crowd at the double entendre. [PsychCentral]
1. Entry at Grammarphobia
2. “Double entendre” in the OED (subscription required)
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