A listener named Carrie asked, “What’s the difference between ‘facetious,’ ‘sarcastic,’ and ‘sardonic’?”
“Facetious,” “sarcastic,” and “sardonic” all have similar meanings, and in practice, many people use them interchangeably, but I’m sure enterprising teenagers, comedians, and political commentators can find uses for all three kinds of comments.
The roots of the words may help you remember which is which.
“Facetious” comes from a Latin word that means “jest.” A facetious comment is a joking comment—often an inappropriate joking comment. Think of a jester or joker making a funny face at you, and remember the first part of “facetious” is spelled “face.”
“Sarcastic” comes from a Greek word that means “to speak bitterly or to sneer.