za·​ny | \ ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio) \
plural zanies

Definition of zany

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal : merry-andrew
2 : a slavish follower : toady
3a : one who acts the buffoon to amuse others
b : nut, kook


zanier; zaniest

Definition of zany (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : being or having the characteristics of a zany
2 : fantastically or absurdly ludicrous a zany movie

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Other Words from zany


zanily \ ˈzā-​nə-​lē How to pronounce zanily (audio) \ adverb
zaniness \ ˈzā-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce zaniness (audio) \ noun

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).

Examples of zany in a Sentence


hired a zany to entertain the children at the birthday party one of the challenges of hosting a radio call-in program is preventing the zanies from completely taking over the discussion


a zany plan to drive cross-country on a motorized scooter
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The zaniest of the zanies, and one of Grimm’s favorites to play, is Dahlia Whitney, the murder victim’s wife. Myrna Petlicki,, "'Murder for Two' is a two-man show with one actor playing 12 roles," 3 July 2018 In Tasmania, the idea gradually turned into a bit of a joke: the island’s very own Bigfoot, with its own zany, rivalrous fraternities of seekers and true believers. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "The Obsessive Search for the Tasmanian Tiger," 16 Jan. 2012 This is a cast of zanies, all vying for center stage. David Lyman,, "Wanna see 'Clue' onstage? 'Murder For Two' might be for you," 11 May 2018 His zany, foul-mouthed Mayor Adam West first appeared during the second season of the hit Fox show and has been recurring ever since. Los Angeles Times Staff,, "A Star Is Born: Natalie Portman turns 36 today," 9 June 2017 The argument continued as the group decided to go to a comedy club in Nashville called Zanies instead of the restaurant. Kevin Spain, USA TODAY, "Panthers' Michael Oher cited for assaulting Uber driver in Nashville," 4 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

With the zany Saturday game in mind, JR sits down with Brewers broadcaster Bill Schroeder to look back 35 years at the Brewers' 7-6 loss to the White Sox in 25 innings -- the longest game in modern MLB history. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers Podcast: Josh Hader's struggles and a ridiculous Saturday night in Washington, plus a look back at a 25-inning battle 35 years ago," 19 Aug. 2019 The trailer does provide a little glimpse into the other zany characters played by Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "The first trailer for Taika Waititi’s anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit is short and sweet," 23 July 2019 The episode supplies zany obstacles and telenovela jokes but also tears, hugs and declarations of love. Hal Boedeker,, "‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Jane the Virgin,’ ‘Elementary’ say farewell," 26 July 2019 Premiering on July 24, South Side is the more conventional of the two, with all the rapid-fire jokes and zany digressions of a Tina Fey joint. Judy Berman, Time, "This Late-Night Comedy Duo Created Two of the Summer's Funniest New Shows," 18 July 2019 Their home exudes their signature style – a zany, whimsical,colorful combination of patterns mixed with abandon. Marni Jameson, The Mercury News, "10 Madcap ways to add pizzazz to your home," 17 July 2019 Raunchy bars and mature terminology: Wang likes to inject a dose of zany levity into explaining poignant matters, such as the experience of negotiating multiple worlds as an immigrant. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "When a Lie Becomes Your Breakout Film," 14 July 2019 Then there are Ethan and Grayson Dolan, the 19-year-old twins who’ve captivated more than 44 million followers on social media with their good looks and zany videos. Khanh T.l. Tran,, "She gave up everything to start beauty brand Tatcha. What happens after it’s sold?," 8 July 2019 The zany thrill-seeker first wowed the world with his new invention during Paris’s Bastille Day parade earlier this month — even capturing the imagination of French President Emmanuel Macron. Ruby Mellen, Washington Post, "A French inventor tried to cross the English Channel on his ‘flyboard.’ He failed.," 25 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zany.' 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 zany


1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for zany


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

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Time Traveler for zany

The first known use of zany was in 1588

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More Definitions for zany



English Language Learners Definition of zany

informal : very strange and silly


za·​ny | \ ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio) \
zanier; zaniest

Kids Definition of zany

: very strange and silly a zany plan

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More from Merriam-Webster on zany

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with zany

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for zany

Spanish Central: Translation of zany

Nglish: Translation of zany for Spanish Speakers

Comments on zany

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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