harlequin

noun har·le·quin \ ˈhär-li-k(w)ən \
Updated on: 11 Dec 2017

Definition of harlequin

1 a capitalized : a character in comedy and pantomime with a shaved head, masked face, variegated tights, and wooden sword
b : buffoon
2 a : 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)

Examples of harlequin in a Sentence

  1. among the court entertainers waiting to enter the grand hall were masked harlequins in brightly colored pantaloons

Recent Examples of harlequin from the Web

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.

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.

Illustration of harlequin

Origin and Etymology of harlequin

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

Other Performing Arts Terms


HARLEQUIN Defined for English Language Learners

harlequin

noun

Definition of harlequin for English Language Learners

  • : 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



Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

of, relating to, or being an oracle

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman-tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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