clown·​ish ˈklau̇-nish How to pronounce clownish (audio)
: resembling or befitting a clown (as in ignorance and lack of sophistication)
clownishly adverb
clownishness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for clownish

boorish, churlish, loutish, clownish mean uncouth in manners or appearance.

boorish implies rudeness of manner due to insensitiveness to others' feelings and unwillingness to be agreeable.

a drunk's boorish behavior

churlish suggests surliness, unresponsiveness, and ungraciousness.

churlish remarks

loutish implies bodily awkwardness together with stupidity.

a loutish oaf

clownish suggests ill-bred awkwardness, ignorance or stupidity, ungainliness, and often a propensity for absurd antics.

an adolescent's clownish conduct

Examples of clownish in a Sentence

the clownish antics of some of the teenagers at the wedding reception
Recent Examples on the Web On Thursday, after weeks spent in clownish limbo, House Republicans finally banded together and unanimously elected a speaker. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 26 Oct. 2023 The PJs portrayed The Black Struggle as a clownish depiction of daily life in a housing project. WIRED, 28 Sep. 2023 The 5th Circuit judges combine their clownish approach to the law with a clownish confusion over the federal rules of procedure they are bound to apply. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 27 Sep. 2023 Atlantic puffins — clownish seabirds with colorful bills and waddling gaits — had their second consecutive rebound year for fledgling chicks after suffering a catastrophic 2021, said scientists who monitor the birds. Patrick Whittle,, 29 Aug. 2023 In the next scene, walking by a row of gray, forbidding houses and wearing a clownish version of a long black coat and top hat — the vivid costumes are by Catherine Zuber — Rigoletto is visibly shaken by a curse that’s just been leveled on him at the palace. New York Times, 2 Jan. 2022 The hollow threat by Trump, and his clownish statements about his love fest served, at best, to diminish the reputation of the U.S. around the world and, at worst, to signal that the U.S. was only a paper tiger, inviting North Korea’s further nuclear development. Marty Judge Community Voices Contributor, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Sep. 2020 He, too, was captured in clownish makeup — his character’s signature look — and a disheveled blazer as the two co-stars filmed a dynamic scene together. Hannah Dailey, Billboard, 3 Apr. 2023 In early 2016, the ascent of such a clownish demagogue, a sleazy real-estate hustler who had only begun to reveal the full depths of his bigotry and authoritarian impulses, was a laugh line. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 30 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'clownish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1563, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of clownish was in 1563

Dictionary Entries Near clownish

Cite this Entry

“Clownish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on clownish

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!