Gag Gift: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 24, 2023

The phrase "gag gift" refers to a humorous or novelty item given to someone, often for the purpose of amusement or to play a joke on the recipient. These gifts are often inexpensive, and their primary value lies in their comedic or surprise elements.

In short:

"Gag gift" refers to a light-hearted or joke present intended primarily to amuse rather than to be practical or useful.

What Does "Gag Gift" Mean?

The idiom "gag gift" denotes a novelty item given to someone as a joke or for fun. The purpose of the gift is not to be practical or serious but rather to amuse the recipient and others present.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning include:

  • Denotes a humorous or novelty item given as a gift
  • Associated with fun, laughter, and light-hearted occasions
  • Typically inexpensive and not intended for serious or practical use

Where Does "Gag Gift" Come From?

The phrase "gag gift" originated in the 1930s and originally referred to practical jokes designed to elicit a reaction from the audience. By the 1980s, the term had broadened to include any gift that was intended to make the recipient smile or laugh. Classic gag gifts include whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, and rubber chickens.

Historical Example

"At least a dozen home bars in the Ruhr barons' villas have acquired this bulk vending embellishment as this season's gag gift for the 'millionaire who has everything.'"

- Billboard Magazine, 1963

10 Examples of "Gag Gift" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • For her birthday, John gave Mary a gag gift - a toilet paper roll with funny quotes.
  • Before her departure, he handed her a gag gift with a playful wink, saying, "Have a safe trip!"
  • My friends gave me a gag gift of an oversized coffee mug since they know how much I love coffee.
  • He was surprised when he unwrapped the gag gift, finding a rubber chicken inside.
  • He couldn't resist cracking a lame joke as he handed her the gag gift.
  • Thanks a ton for the gag gift; it had everyone laughing hysterically!
  • I received a gag gift of an alarm clock that makes incredibly annoying sounds.
  • He presented her with a gag gift out of spite, hoping to provoke a reaction.
  • I ordered a gag gift online for my brother's birthday. It's a pillow that looks like a giant potato.
  • Even though it was a gag gift, the "nose-shaped" pencil sharpener was quite useful. Well, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Examples of "Gag Gift" in Pop Culture

The phrase "gag gift" often appears in media associated with holiday celebrations, sitcoms, or comedies, where gift exchanges might take a humorous turn.

Some examples include:

  • "Sometimes relatives decide to stay longer after we give them something, and this is why the gag gift was invented" is a quote from the book "The Buck Never Got Here" by Kendall Hemphill.
  • In the TV series NCIS (2003-), Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo says, "What is this a gag gift? You guys - plan this together?"

Other/Different Ways to Say "Gag Gift"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "gag gift."

Some of these include:

  • Novelty gift
  • Joke gift
  • Funny gift
  • Prank gift
  • Humorous gift

You can use these alternatives interchangeably depending on the context and the degree of humor or novelty involved.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Gag Gift"

  • What does "gag gift" mean?

"Gag gift" refers to a humorous or novelty item given as a gift, intended primarily for amusement.

  • How can I use "gag gift" in a sentence?

You can use "gag gift" in a sentence like this: "For the secret Santa exchange, I decided to buy a gag gift."

  • Where does the idiom "gag gift" come from?

The term "gag gift" likely originates from the word "gag" which, in comedic contexts, refers to a joke or a playful trick.

  • What types of gifts does this phrase refer to? 

It refers to humorous pieces such as funny coffee mugs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, practical jokes, or anything meant as a joke rather than a serious gift.

  • Is "gag gift" a casual or formal idiom?

The idiom "gag gift" is considered casual and informal. It implies a playful, lighthearted context.

  • Can strangers use the phrase "gag gift"?

Yes, the phrase is not context-specific and can be used by anyone when referring to a humorous or novelty gift.

  • Why are they called "gag gifts"?

They are called "gag gifts" because they are intended to make the recipient laugh or giggle upon receiving the present. The gifts play a joke or trick on the receiver in a fun, lighthearted way.

  • Is it okay to use the phrase to express humor?

Yes, the phrase "gag gift" is typically used in humorous contexts and is meant to convey a sense of amusement or fun.

  • What's the difference between a "gag gift" and a "regular gift"?

A "gag gift" is meant to be humorous and fun, often not practical or valuable in nature. A regular gift, however, is typically chosen with the recipient's tastes or needs in mind and may be more valuable or practical.

  • Can gag gifts be sentimental?

Rarely are gag gifts heartfelt or sentimental since their main purpose is to make light of the occasion in a comedic fashion. While the gift may come from someone who cares about the recipient, the actual item itself is meant more as a joke than a treasured keepsake.

Final Thoughts About "Gag Gift"

To conclude, the idiom "gag gift" refers to a novelty or joke item given to someone primarily for amusement rather than practical use. It often conveys a sense of fun, humor, and playfulness.

Key aspects of the phrase:

  • Represents a humorous or novelty item given as a gift
  • Conveys a sense of fun and amusement
  • Typically more suitable for casual or informal contexts

Remember, a "gag gift" is intended to bring a smile or laughter. It's a light-hearted way of gifting that adds humor and surprise to the occasion.

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