Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

zany

play
noun za·ny \ˈzā-nē\

Definition of zany

plural

zanies

  1. 1 :  a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal :  merry-andrew

  2. 2 :  a slavish follower :  toady

  3. 3 a :  one who acts the buffoon to amuse others b :  nut, kook



Examples of zany in a sentence

  1. <hired a zany to entertain the children at the birthday party>

  2. <one of the challenges of hosting a radio call-in program is preventing the zanies from completely taking over the discussion>



Did You Know?

Zanies have been theatrical buffoons since the heyday of the Italian commedia dell’arte, which introduced those knavish clowns. The Italian zanni was a stock servant character, often an intelligent and proud valet with abundant common sense, a love of practical jokes, and a tendency to be quarrelsome, cowardly, envious, vindictive, and treacherous. Zanni, the Italian name for the character, comes from a dialect nickname for Giovanni, the Italian form of John. The character quickly spread throughout European theater circles, inspiring such familiar characters as Pierrot and Harlequin, and by the late 1500s an anglicized version of the noun "zany" was introduced to English-speaking audiences by no less a playwright than William Shakespeare (in Loveas Labouras Lost).

Origin and Etymology of zany

Italian zanni, a traditional masked clown, from Italian dialect Zanni, nickname for Italian Giovanni John


First Known Use: 1588

Other Performing Arts Terms


2

zany

adjective za·ny

Simple Definition of zany

  • : very strange and silly

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of zany

zanier

zaniest

  1. 1 :  being or having the characteristics of a zany

  2. 2 :  fantastically or absurdly ludicrous <a zany movie>

zanily

play \ˈzā-nə-lē\ adverb

zaniness

play \ˈzā-nē-nəs\ noun

Examples of zany in a sentence

  1. <a zany plan to drive cross-country on a motorized scooter>



1609

First Known Use of zany

1609

Other Performing Arts Terms

Rhymes with zany


ZANY Defined for Kids

zany

play
adjective za·ny \ˈzā-nē\

Definition of zany for Students

zanier

zaniest

  1. :  very strange and silly <a zany plan>




Learn More about zany


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up zany? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to proceed clumsily or ineffectually

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

lavender-fields-in-france

Which of these is a synonym of caesura?

torrent rebellion interruption megillah
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ