za·​ny | \ˈzā-nē \
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 \ adverb
zaniness \ˈzā-​nē-​nəs \ 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

Epic continues to add zany new items like a structure-destroying ATV, deployable fortresses, and invisibility stones to mix it up. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Black Ops 4 merges Fortnite and PUBG into the best Call of Duty in years," 19 Oct. 2018 In conceiving the project, Fournier and Marty invented a backstory and built their décor around it with the zany monomania of a Wes Anderson movie. Joshua Levine, WSJ, "A Moroccan Retreat With a French Minimalist Spin," 13 Aug. 2018 Her aim is simple: payback for years of bullying after a zany accident sets her on an unexpected path. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, ""Insatiable" Trailer from Netflix Has Debby Ryan Craving Revenge," 19 July 2018 But the competitive angle Laser Ops Pro takes—plus the fact that every digital Nerf blaster is actually a perfectly accurate, full-auto sniper rifle with a bottomless clip—means there's probably no room for Nerf's zany side. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Nerf's Laser Tag Guns Are Cool, But They Lose What Makes Nerf Great," 17 July 2018 And if adding Lance wasn’t zany enough, Los Angeles also reportedly added Javale McGee on Sunday. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Grades: Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee Join Forces with LeBron James in L.A.," 1 July 2018 Image The challenge: To capture the spirit of Tom Stoppard’s zany and chaotic play, told in a series of repeating and often conflicting flashbacks that feature the real-life figures James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and the Dadaist Tristan Tzara. Michael Paulson, New York Times, "Ding. Hiss. Chirp. Broadway’s Best Sounds (Other Than the Songs).," 28 May 2018 Billy Crystal offers zany phone messages Williams left and tells how the comedian called during Ronald Reagan’s funeral, pretending to be the former president. Hal Boedeker,, "Robin Williams: HBO's remarkable tribute," 12 July 2018 As is usually the case with Ubisoft, the conference was heartfelt, zany, and high on showmanship. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Ubisoft at E3: Beyond Good & Evil is back," 11 June 2018

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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Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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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

: very strange and silly


za·​ny | \ˈzā-nē \
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).


living or existing for a long time

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