zany

noun
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

zany

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from zany

Adjective

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

Did You Know?

Noun

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

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

Adjective

a zany plan to drive cross-country on a motorized scooter
See More

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, chicagotribune.com, "'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, Cincinnati.com, "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, latimes.com, "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

This would be underwritten by the Democrats’ go-to source for funding their zany schemes: the beleaguered American taxpayer. Deroy Murdock, National Review, "Democratic Presidential Contenders Prescribe Big Government Snake Oil," 11 July 2019 The musical comedy is filled with zany pirates, zombie ships, mermaids and the plot revolves around a bumbling actor and his crew getting shanghaied by the terror of the high seas. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Newcomers group installs new officers," 10 July 2019 The new Lois Lane series is written by Greg Rucka and therefore not to be missed, but Jimmy Olsen brings the titular character back to his zany roots. Christian Holub, EW.com, "5 comics to read this July: Reimagining classic concepts," 3 July 2019 In typical whodunit fashion, the family is full of strange characters, big secrets, and tense relationships that make for a zany tableau. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "The first trailer for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a wild take on whodunits," 2 July 2019 And on Friday, Ryu was reminded of it too as the Dodgers’ 12-game winning streak over the Colorado Rockies ended with a zany 13-9 loss. Jorge Castillo, latimes.com, "Hyun-Jin Ryu is pummeled in Dodgers’ 13-9 loss to Rockies," 28 June 2019 All the 54 looks were handled with sensitivity through a simple formula: Any bold item, such as a coat in zany monochrome gingham check, was paired with an unfussy black undergarment to perfectly toe the line between exuberance and elegance. Thomas Adamson And Colleen Barry, chicagotribune.com, "What (the runways say) guys will be wearing for summer 2020," 24 June 2019 All the 54 looks were handled with sensitivity through a simple formula: Any bold item, such as a coat in zany monochrome gingham check, was paired with an unfussy black undergarment to perfectly toe the line between exuberance and elegance. Washington Post, "Styles get romantic in Paris menswear with verdant blooms," 19 June 2019 Based on the Veloster, the RM16 is a modern take on the 2001 Renault Sport Clio V-6, a zany little French hatch with a big engine gobbling up the rear seats and cargo bay. Clifford Atiyeh, Car and Driver, "Rimac is Helping Hyundai Make an N-Branded EV Hatch and a Sporty Hydrogen Car," 15 May 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.

See More

First Known Use of zany

Noun

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for zany

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about zany

Listen to Our Podcast about zany

Statistics for zany

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for zany

The first known use of zany was in 1588

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for zany

zany

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of zany

informal : very strange and silly

zany

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

Kids Definition of zany

: very strange and silly a zany plan

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!