How to Think of Quick Witted Comebacks

Two Methods:Things to Be Careful AboutWitticisms

Have you ever been in an argument in which your entire reputation among friends, family, or colleagues hinges on flinging a quick comeback at someone who has insulted or outwitted you? Being quick-witted with a comeback is a learned art and also involves being confident. Once you learn how to come up with quick comebacks, you'll be able to impress your friends -- and your enemies -- in no time.


  1. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 1
    Develop quick thinking skills. Not everyone is comfortable with thinking on their feet, and for those of you who get easily flustered, the art of quick-witted comebacks may depend on memorizing some standard comebacks as a last resort. Don't try to be quick witted if your thinking processes aren't keeping up; not only do you risk looking foolish but you'll be so frustrated with yourself that the attempt isn't worth it. If you think quickly already, move to the next step. If not, spend some time amassing a collection of as many good comebacks as you can find and look at ways you can modify them for different circumstances.
    • Have a look at the masters of quick-witted comebacks, such as Dorothy Parker, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Mae West, George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher, and so forth. The list of witty people is huge, so do an online search.
    • Read the witty exchanges between such people as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, or George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill. Even the conversations between Han and Leia will do it.
  2. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 2
    Try writing your own version of a conversation that you wished you'd been witty in. Replace that past attempt with a better script and work from this point to guide your future wittiness.
  3. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 3
    While you're learning to be witty, be tactful and diplomatic. If wittiness never comes to you, at least people will presume you're polite under all the fuming to be witty!
  4. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 4
    Above all else, stay calm. Don't get angry, or even a little annoyed. Bear in mind that your opponent's insults are never worth your time and getting angry won't ever help.
    • Detach yourself from personal dislike of a person and focus on what's been said in a calm, objective manner instead. Focus on being witty and stick with your resolve to stay calm.
    • Practice looking perfectly calm, even amused or bemused in front of a mirror. Even if you're extremely angry on the inside, on the outside, you are calm – tell yourself this and your thoughts will respond in kind.
  5. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 5
    Be a realist. You're far less likely to take insulting comments or innuendo to heart if you keep a realistic view of yourself and the situation. Realistic people are less able to be provoked and can see (or make it look like) what the other person is saying is stupid or not-funny, as well as not taking it personally, remaining composed and ready with a witty comment that could gain you more respect and leave the other person in stunned silence.
  6. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 6
    Immediately deflect any insults flung your way. If you think about the insult, you'll dwell on it, letting it get to you personally. Instead, don't focus on the insult but on responding quickly.
    • The trick behind witty comebacks is speed and "he who hesitates is lost". You haven't got time to think of the ramifications of the rudeness, unfairness, or nastiness of what has just been said; instead treat it like the game it is and the insult merely becomes a shuttle to be hit back. Don't wait... or it'll be too late.
  7. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 7
    Be prepared to pick apart what someone says. You have to be willing to enter the fray and to enjoy the spirit of the confrontation instead of fearing it or downplaying it. See confrontation as an invitation to play rather than a reason to feel insulted. If someone contradicts him- or herself, go to it like a swarm of piranha to a cow carcass. That usually devalues an insult in the eyes of the insulter; that sometimes makes them angry. Just don't pick something apart for longer than you need to - you could get interrupted, and that immediately makes what you were saying useless. Brevity is the soul of wit.
  8. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 8
    Be sarcastic, but only if you can pull it off well. Sarcasm has its place if treated with cleverness and is not overly done. If you've just insulted someone, and they insult you back with something completely irrelevant, feel free to drawl sarcastically, "Well, there's an intelligent answer." Avoid turning it into a sarcastic monologue of all the faults you're in the mood for listing.
    • Remember that sarcasm also involves good timing and proper tone of voice. Think of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series or Oscar Wilde, both good examples of sarcasm that is pulled off well, and succinctly.
  9. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 9
    Retort in a composed, serene, and confident manner. The delivery of your witty retort is half the battle; while the content matters, so does the style with which you deliver. Avoid condescension or superiority in tone of voice, and avoid sounding hurt or insulted, as in "Oh man, I'm so angry I'm going to completely devastate you with a verbal comeback." Revert to your cool composure, and speak your witty comeback clearly, quickly, and with confidence. If anything, will yourself to include a smile in your voice and eyes, because you need to veer to the funnier, humorous side of what is happening to be a successful wit.
  10. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 10
    Don't belabor the point. In most cases, your witty comeback should be sufficient to end the matter there and then. Continuing to discuss, argue, or toss points around will likely weaken the impact of what you've said, so avoid engaging any further on the matter. It's up to you whether you change the topic, walk away to resume conversing with this person another time, or pretend they're not even there anymore. The key thing is to have the upper hand before you move on. Just don't walk away in the middle of being insulted because then it suggests you can't take it; however, there is one exception and that is standing up for yourself by saying: "I won't listen to these insults anymore. I will come back when you have calmed down." That puts the onus on your opponent to behave more and gives you a dignified exit.
  11. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 11
    Respect yourself and your opponent. These are words, both from your opponent, and from yourself. Words have the ability to hurt, so be sure that your words are still considerate of the dignity of the other person no matter how much you dislike the other person or what they're saying. In turn, don't let their words get to you; only you have the power to remove the impact of what is said and if you choose to be wounded, then you will find yourself struggling to overcome the verbal barbs. As Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked: "No one can insult me without my permission." Withdraw your permission and get on with your day in the knowledge that you have maintained your dignity, spoken with integrity and intelligence, and respected yourself and the other person.

Method 1
Things to Be Careful About

Wittiness comes with a price! These are some of the things to bear in mind when flexing your witty muscles.

  1. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 12
    Avoid swearing (or at least minimize it). Swearing isn't witty; it's simply a way of exploding or verbalizing your discontent or anger in a very visceral manner. It might make you feel better as tension is released but it's hardly witty most times, and mostly it makes you seem immature, uncool, and it's not going to hit the target where it undoes their argument or statements. However, your opponent's swearing can definitely be used as a target of your wit, such as making a biting comment or saying in a monotone: "Oh, you're swearing now? How mature," and leave it at that.
  2. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 13
    Tone down the name-calling. Closely related to swearing, name-calling simply makes you look envious, lost, and overly emotional. Name-calling might again seem like a great outlet for your anger and frustration but it works to your opponent's advantage all too easily and isn't that witty. If you must name-call, stick to naming their argument rather than them. For example, say "That's a very unusual/obscure/odd way to see the situation", rather than "You're an idiot." You could also point out a character failing, such as saying things like "Oh that's just plain arrogant of you to say that,"or "Well, I'm now thoroughly convinced of your ignorance in the matter."
  3. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 14
    Steer clear of being a snob. A witty comeback that seeks to assert your superiority or greater status will backfire because it will turn into a matter of the other person insisting that "you think you're too good for me", and so forth, and once you're in this type of argument, things spiral ever out of control. It is hard to walk the fine line between been witty and snobby but the key factor is retain your sense of humor and to see the funniness or the triviality of the situation. If you're responding in anger or hurt, then you're responding from the wrong part of yourself. If, on the other hand, you're responding with amusement and humor underlying your approach, then you'll lose the superiority complex and find the right thing to say.
  4. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 15
    Be considerate of people who take things personally. Sure, they shouldn't keep playing victim and acting as if their whole world will fall apart if you so much as poke them, but they do and you take people as you find them. In some cases, it's plain unfair, unkind, and uncaring to provoke a weak arguer with witty comebacks that you know they won't be able to handle. Perhaps it's your intent to teach such a person a lesson; in that case, it's your karma. But at least do consider the consequences of demolishing a verbal opponent who is likely to fly into a sulk, funk, or rage as a result and consider whether this is the best approach or not. On the other hand, if they're being a complete jerk, then perhaps it is the lesson they need regardless of their weak armor.
    • Don't forget the disguised solicitous comeback that thinly veils your contempt for their rude comment. This is the comeback in which you act overly concerned for your opponent's health or well-being, such as "You don't seem very well today. Can I get you a headache tablet?" or "Is there anything I can do? You seem incredibly stressed out about something." In this way, you avoid exclaiming outright your annoyance and you make it clear to them that their behavior is untoward but because you're being outwardly kind and thoughtful, it's hard to do much about your insinuation.
  5. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 16
    Allow the other side's words and actions to speak for themselves. Sometimes there isn't even a need for a witty comeback. If a person persists and persists in saying something stupid, insulting, thoughtless, or groundless, let them do all the talking and simply use a dismissive gesture to express your distaste or deflection. Other people will quickly see that a person unable to control their temper, needling, or whining is at fault and will see that person for who they really are. Always know when to let be, and let the actions speak for themselves.
    • Practice raising an eyebrow, smirking, rolling your eyes, or using some other gesture that displays a lack of being impressed.
    • Do not let your opponent sense your fear of them. If you do, they will tear you apart with insults.
    • Repeat exactly what has been said, but in a funny voice. This is a way of mirroring what has just been said and can be effective provided it is done well. This one might need practice with a willing friend.
    • Yawn and look at your watch hungrily.
  6. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 17
    Don't hold grudges. Be aware that dismissing someone either verbally or with gestures removes your validation from them and can be extremely effective as a response. Just don't do it too often as putting them down is direct and ultimately it's alienating; be sure there is a real need for it and don't hold a grudge beyond the occasion. Once done, it's done and if you wish to open dialog with someone you've put down, be the first to offer the olive branch and to make it clear that you bear no grudges. Say something like "I really like the way you kicked the ball the other day but I didn't appreciate your attitude following the game. I felt I had no choice but to put your bad mood in its place. I hope you'll forgive my direct approach and we can move on positively now."

Method 2

  1. Image titled Think of Quick Witted Comebacks Step 18
    Find witticisms and remember them. There are plenty of witty comebacks available for the avid internet surfer, so this list isn't a long one, it's just one to help get you started. You might like to keep a book of your favorites and learn them by heart. At the very least, these may come in handy when all other words fail you! Here are just a few:
    • "Thank you for proving my point."
    • "Right....!" (intoned with sarcasm)
    • "I've had a great evening but this wasn't it" – Groucho Marx. This can be adapted in many ways, such as "I've had a great time/day/experience, etc., but this wasn't it".
    • "Feeling perfect right now? Hope that bubble doesn't burst on you."
    • "You've actually done that? For real?"
    • "Then I guess we're on the same level."
    • "I'm an apathetic sociopath. I'd kill you if I cared."
    • "Next time you speak, use verbs/words/sentences."
    • "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person."
    • "Light travels faster than sound; that's why you appeared bright until you spoke."
    • "Did you come up with that all by yourself?"
    • If the comeback from your opponent is so long-winded that you're gagging for space to reply, lean against something, close your eyes and wait a few seconds, then suddenly open your eyes and say "Oh! Sorry! Were you saying anything important just then? I must have dozed off".
    • "Cool, I'll look into it." (In response to something goading, or when you have absolutely no intention to follow the remark up. This one can be remarkably effective at taking the wind out of the sails of someone ranting.)
    • "I'll get back to you. If I ever remember."
    • "Have you always been like this?"
    • "It's obvious you're stressed. Is there anything I can do?"
    • "You and I have so much in common at times, don't we?" Use this for an insult about your weight, appearance, intelligence, etc.
    • "Pardon? Sorry I didn't quite catch that. Would you care to repeat it/elaborate on it?" It has to be a brave person who repeats an insult in all its finery. This one definitely bursts their moment.
    • "Takes one to know one." This is a great one that should be used when you're out of ideas when responding to an insult.
    • This line is good to use if the person won't stop going on, or you have ran out of ideas. "Honey, if you're gonna be two-faced, at least make ONE of them pretty." It makes more sense to the person and observers if you use this on a person who was once a friend.Using names like 'Honey' or 'Sweetie' will most likely upset the person. If they something like, "Don't call me 'Honey'", reply with "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I shouldn't have lied in the first place."
    • If someone is repeating the same insult over and over, use this. "Still clinging to the same idea? Try something more... original." Then do a little smile, and walk away.


  • Don't appear as if you're trying too hard to come up with something clever. This will turn in favor of your opponent, especially if they seem to be responding easily.
  • If you have insulted someone to the point where they're speechless or are taking a long time to think of something, smirk, say "That's what I thought" or something like that, and walk away.
  • For those to whom it does not come naturally, learn to paint a smile on your face and pretend as if you do not care of what has just been said, that's another way to deflect and immediately feel better.
  • When searching online for witty comebacks, use such search terms as "witty comebacks", "clever retorts/replies", "witty replies", "using wit", "insult jokes", etc. Be aware that some sites have clean and rude comebacks.
  • If they are complaining about something nonstop, look at them and curtly tell them, "you'll Live."
  • Playing the detached and disinterested party is a key part to the success of many comebacks; show your lack of being insulted by smiling, using dismissive gestures, keeping the tone of your voice calm, and thinking all the time of deflecting rather than engaging your opponent. It might help to think to yourself: "Look bored and cool at once!"
  • If someone says "shut up!" or "leave me alone", it means you've won. Just smirk and say something like "I knew you'd give up sometime or other" or "Can't take it any more then? Alright, I'll lay off you."
  • If other people are dragged into the comebacks, remind your opponent that it has nothing to do with anyone else.
  • Seek to neutralize what has been said I, not to decimate a person's character.
  • Don't comeback on your comebacks - use the best of them one time, then look for some new ones.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If a teacher or parent is nearby, don't curse.
  • It's also possible to use a comeback to ward off an argument completely. Adopt the same principles outlined above and cut the argument off before it even has a chance to start.
  • Whip out a "Did you know that if someone is trying to bring you down, it can only mean you're ABOVE them?" That slight tilting of their head in surrender and simply confusion will render the winner of the argument... you!
  • If they are always bragging about themselves, just add an exaggerated "Ooooooooooh" in there so you sound like you really care- they'll shut up about then.
  • If all else fails, laugh it off. Seeming unhurt will defeat the point of the insult and is the point of your retort.
  • Try to keep some of them simple. Don't be witty and sarcastic on all of them or they will come less funny, say something like "next time you want to speak raise your hand..... and cover your mouth with it" then smile sweetly.
  • Sometimes you need to back off a little. Don't try too hard to be "cool" by coming up with a good insult.
  • Reacting is their power. They feed off of it. If you say, "Pssh, sure I totally care", "I don't care about what you're trying to prove", or "Whatever" with sarcasm, you aren't reacting and it makes a good comeback. Also, it makes them leave you alone for a while.


  • Do not, under any circumstances, use childish insults such as "I know you are, but what am I" or "At least I have a life." All these do is show that you're unoriginal and scrambling for a good line (and failing). The latter insult also assumes you're superior, breaching the rule about not actively putting that sense across.
  • Don't bring mom, dad, siblings, or great-aunt Matilda into the insulting unless you're countering a same insult or you're willing to have your own family members insulted too.
  • "Leave me alone" is a cry for ... being left alone. It is not a witty comeback. Say it and you'll open up the vista for more verbal bullying. It is better to remain silent than to utter this forlorn and desperate statement.
  • Too many comebacks make you seem dimwitted and parrot-like. Remember to keep the comeback short, pointed, and to stop engaging.
  • Remember that insulting someone can soon turn into defaming them if care is not taken. Be particularly aware of this if jousting in an environment where words are recorded, such as IRC, blog comments, and emails.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Language Nuances