har·​le·​quin | \ ˈhär-li-k(w)ən How to pronounce harlequin (audio) \

Definition of harlequin

1a capitalized : a character in comedy and pantomime with a shaved head, masked face, variegated tights, and wooden sword
b : buffoon
2a : a variegated pattern (as of a textile)
b : a combination of patches on a solid ground of contrasting color (as in the coats of some dogs)

Illustration of harlequin

Illustration of harlequin


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Synonyms for harlequin


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History of Harlequin

When capitalized, Harlequin refers to a stock character of the Italian commedia dell’arte and subsequently the pantomime traditions of other nations. The character began in the 16th century as an unscrupulous comic servant, later became a faithful valet involved in amorous exploits, and ultimately evolved into a clownlike figure engaging in good-natured joking and amusing tricks. Harlequin’s outfit began as peasant clothes covered in bright patches and developed into a tight-fitting costume with bright triangles and diamond shapes and a black half-mask. Harlequin was the principal character of pantomime slapstick plays known as harlequinades.

Examples of harlequin in a Sentence

among the court entertainers waiting to enter the grand hall were masked harlequins in brightly colored pantaloons
Recent Examples on the Web Though the books don’t shy away from violence and feature several nail-biting battle scenes, the Throne of Glass series is very much a high-fantasy fairy tale, featuring harlequin romances with the glittering promise of happily ever afters. Sadie Gennis, Vulture, "11 Fantasy Novels to Read After Bingeing Shadow and Bone," 26 Apr. 2021 Bouquets of harlequin flowers and handwritten signs blanketed the entrance of Gold Spa, the bright colors standing out against the salon’s dim interior. NBC News, "Atlanta Korean community is outraged, says issue isn't actually 'complex'," 22 Mar. 2021 The foyer has ceramic tiles in a black-and-white harlequin pattern and main stairs made of solid cherry. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "$2.5M Ann Arbor home's landscape is replica of famous golf course grounds," 13 Mar. 2021 These are harlequin bugs whose pierce-and-suck feeding makes white spots or, in heavy infestations, makes leaves wilt, turn brown and die. Ellen Nibali, baltimoresun.com, "Garden Q&A: Kale-munching harlequin bugs and protecting strawberry plants through the winter," 22 Oct. 2020 The species found to have less than 1,000 individuals include the Sumatran rhino, the Clarión wren, the Española giant tortoise and the harlequin frog, reports Damian Carrington of the Guardian. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Already Unprecedented Rate of Wildlife Extinctions Is Accelerating," 3 June 2020 The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, wearing a sweatshirt, sat in his home in Nantucket, at a dining table inlaid with a harlequin diamond pattern, and traded out of the first round. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "A Surprisingly Poignant N.F.L. Draft, Live from Various Basements," 24 Apr. 2020 Their target is dressed similar to a harlequin, with a hefty wooden face and head mask painted red, black and white. Washington Post, "AP PHOTOS: Spanish towns embrace peculiar old festivals," 26 Jan. 2020 Newborns with harlequin ichthyosis have painful cracks in their thick, hardened skin, according U.S. National Library of Medicine. Benjamin Vanhoose, PEOPLE.com, "Mom Says Toddler Is 'Happy and Smiley' Despite Rare, Painful Skin Condition," 10 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harlequin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of harlequin

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for harlequin

ultimately from Italian arlecchino, from Middle French Helquin, a demon

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Time Traveler for harlequin

Time Traveler

The first known use of harlequin was in 1590

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Statistics for harlequin

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Harlequin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harlequin. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of harlequin

: a pattern of diamond-shaped figures of different colors
: a comic character in old stories and plays who wears a mask and colorful clothes with a diamond pattern

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