zany

1 of 2

adjective

za·​ny ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio)
zanier; zaniest
1
: very eccentric (see eccentric entry 1 sense 1a) or absurd (see absurd entry 1 sense 1) often in an amusing way
a zany comedy
the movie's zany characters/antics/humor
another one of his zany ideas
2
archaic : being or having the characteristics of a zany
zanily adverb
zaniness noun

zany

2 of 2

noun

plural zanies
1
: a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal : merry-andrew
2
archaic : a person who fawns over another person : a servile follower : toady
… must have known the falsehood of the slander which they encouraged their zanies to propagate.William Gifford
3
a
: one who acts the buffoon to amuse others
b
: nut, kook

Did you know?

The oddballs among us are likely familiar with zany as an adjective, meaning "eccentric." But did you know the word originated as a noun—one that has withstood the test of time? Zanies have been theatrical buffoons since the heyday of the Italian commedia dell’arte, in which a "zanni" was a stock servant character, often an intelligent and proud valet with abundant common sense and a love of practical jokes. Zanni 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. The adjective appeared within decades, and eventually both adopted more general meanings to refer to or describe those of us who are quipsters and weirdos.

Examples of zany in a Sentence

Adjective a zany plan to drive cross-country on a motorized scooter Noun 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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The auction house and Turner Classic Movies are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the zany film by holding a dedicated auction during a bigger, four-day Hollywood Legends sale. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 29 Nov. 2023 There's nothing conservative or libertarian about her zany idea. Christian Schneider, National Review, 16 Nov. 2023 His brand of humor is zany and self-deprecating — yet always compassionate — and he’s known to rib other popular doctors in his posts. Jolene Edgar, Allure, 15 Nov. 2023 The series hasn’t lacked for earnest-minded depictions of violence, but this is far zanier stuff, moving toward almost Looney Tunes territory in a way that keeps multiple home invasion scenes from ever being too scary and, in turn, offers hints of Raising Arizona. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Nov. 2023 Emily Ratajkowski as Marge Simpson Emily Ratajkowski's interpretation of Marge Simpson at Klum's 2015 Heidi Halloween was perfectly zany for the occasion. Catherine Santino, Peoplemag, 25 Oct. 2023 Throughout the video, baby Love is seen bouncing up and down as a song plays a zany take on what chickens sound like. Angela Andaloro, Peoplemag, 1 Nov. 2023 Often, vaudeville routines co-starred zany Hebrew comediennes, who sassed and scolded their counterparts, rebuffing Abie Cohen’s advances in favor of Irishmen or Italians. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2023 Silly Stacked Pumpkins All ready to party on the porch, these zany characters set the stage for fright-night fun and festivities. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 2 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Adjective

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of zany was in 1596

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Dictionary Entries Near zany

Cite this Entry

“Zany.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zany. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

zany

1 of 2 noun
za·​ny ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio)
plural zanies
1
2
: a silly or foolish person

zany

2 of 2 adjective
zanier; zaniest
1
: being, typical of, or resembling a zany
2
: fantastically crazy
a zany movie
zanily
ˈzā-nə-lē How to pronounce zany (audio)
ˈzān-ᵊl-ē
adverb
zaniness noun

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