mid-14c., verbal noun from laugh (v.). Laughing matter (usually with negative) is from 1560s. Nitrous oxide has been called laughing gas since 1842 (for its exhilarating effects). Davy, experimenting with the gas, discovered these as far back as 1779: "When I took the bag from my mouth, I immediately laughed. The laughter was involuntary, but highly pleasurable, accompanied by a thrill all through me."