Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Is there a movie or TV show that you find to be hilarious?

Do you hear people use the word “hilarious” and wonder if it’s always positive in nature?

What about when you hear people say the word “ridiculous”?

Though they both have their meanings, it can be tough to decipher their actual intent in conversation.

We’re going to help you to see which one fits the appropriate situation, and how to use them properly in conversation.

Here’s a question on this comparison of words that you may find easy to relate to.


Hi Lindsay and Michelle,

Thank you very much for answering my questions last year. Here I am coming to you with  a new question this time around. 

My question today is about “hilarious” vs. “ridiculous”. In the case of ridiculous it seems that it’s  always used with a negative connotation. But as for “hilarious” I get the impression that it can be used in a positive way. I mean when it’s being used in a funny sense, but also in a sarcastic way. So you might imply that somebody or something is ridiculous or laughable. Have I observed that correctly?

I would appreciate it very much if you’d clarify that with some good examples as you always do.

Thank you very much!

Take care,
Andreas from Germany


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Breaking Down The Meanings

Is ridiculous always used in a negative way?

Ridiculous means absurd, or it may cover something in an extreme or funny way.

You might say that the traffic is ridiculous or a situation is ridiculous.

This is typically not a good or favorable thing in the big picture.

Hilarious means that something is very funny.

It may be used in a funny and sarcastic way, but it’s a much more positive word to describe something.


Different Tone Means Different Connotation

You have likely seen by now that the tone of voice that you use can determine the type of reaction that you will get.

In this situation, the tone of voice that you use may actually also determine how you are trying to use it in conversation.

If you are using the word “hilarious” genuinely, then you might say something like this: “You have to see this movie, it’s so hilarious! There was a seen that had me cracking up the entire time.”

If however you are using the word in a sarcastic or more negative way, then you might say it in a very different way.

You might say, “It’s hilarious that you think you can walk in here pretending that you forgot something when you were supposed to clean the sink.”

You might also use ridiculous in this later situation as well.

This is used to indicate that something is completely unrealistic or outlandish.


Similar Words To Use In These Situations

Though you may hear hilarious or ridiculous in conversation a lot, there are other words that can have a similar feel to them.

These words can also be used in conversation and get the same type of reaction as they have similar meanings.

  • Hysterical: This can mean very emotional or very funny. This is a somewhat controversial word because the base word of it “hysteria” is a psychological word. It typically isn’t meant in a negative way, but some may take it that way. This is one where you really want to be careful about the tone that you use so that it’s taken the right way.
    • In a negative way, you might say something like “He won’t stop crying. He’s completely hysterical!”
    • In a positive way, you might say something like “That joke was hysterical, I couldn’t stop laughing.”
  • Laughable:  This is used mostly in a negative or sarcastic way. You wouldn’t really call somebody’s joke laughable because it doesn’t fit. It’s usually used to indicate that something is outrageous, or to say something in a sarcastic way.
    • “It’s laughable to think that you can get an apartment in NYC for $700 a month–that would never happen!”
  • Ludicrous: This is like ridiculous, but more negative and therefore more extreme. You are saying this to make an impact and to show that something is almost absurd.
    • “That’s ludicrous that you think I will pay for the whole meal when I barely ate anything!”

Try using these in conversation to get your point across and see how well they can work.



Hilarious can be used in both ways, though it is mostly positive it may change depending on the context.

Always think about the context and the tone of voice in the delivery of either word.

Keep these things in mind when you hear words used in a seemingly different way than you’re used to.

Practice using these fun words in conversation to see how they can fit a positive or negative situation.

This is a great way to practice the language and also make connections.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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