- a comic performer, as in a circus, theatrical production, or the like, who wears an outlandish costume and makeup and entertains by pantomiming common situations or actions in exaggerated or ridiculous fashion, by juggling or tumbling, etc.
- a person who acts like a clown; comedian; joker; buffoon; jester.
- a prankster; a practical joker.
- Slang. a coarse, ill-bred person; a boor.
- a peasant; rustic.
- to act like a clown.
Origin of clown
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for clownish
And there are going to be some very savvy candidates, not just clownish flame-outs like Herman Cain.GOP’s Strong Field Has No Frontrunner for 2016
March 10, 2014
And it's quite clear they thought Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate was a clownish decision.When You Can't Run As a Moderate in 2012...
November 8, 2012
The closest we came to heat was the alleged philandering of the clownish Herman Cain.A Crying Toddler Viral Video Reflects Cranky, Exhausting Election
November 2, 2012
“I mean, this is the greatest country in the world, and you have this clownish performance by Senator Johnson,” he says.David Obey's Debt Frustration
July 22, 2011
He has a history with anxiety that's at odds with his clownish public front.John Mayer: Artist or Clown?
November 18, 2009
The men were mere clowns, but the exhibition was anything but clownish.Despair's Last Journey
David Christie Murray
These Macedonians are a rude and clownish people that call a spade a spade.The Thing from the Lake
Eleanor M. Ingram
Beside him, Jolly Robin seemed somewhat awkward and clownish.The Tale of Jolly Robin
Arthur Scott Bailey
His opponents called him clownish; his friends declared him Lincolnesque.The Agrarian Crusade
Solon J. Buck
All other men are of use; he alone is clownish like a peasant.The God-Idea of the Ancients
Eliza Burt Gamble
- a comic entertainer, usually grotesquely costumed and made up, appearing in the circus
- any performer who elicits an amused response
- someone who plays jokes or tricks
- a person who acts in a comic or buffoon-like manner
- a coarse clumsy rude person; boor
- archaic a countryman or rustic
- to perform as a clown
- to play jokes or tricks
- to act foolishly
Word Origin and History for clownish
1560s, clowne, also cloyne, "rustic, boor, peasant," origin uncertain. Perhaps from Scandinavian dialect (cf. Icelandic klunni "clumsy, boorish fellow;" Swedish kluns "a hard knob; a clumsy fellow," Danish klunt "log, block"), or akin to North Frisian klönne "clumsy person." Or, less likely, from Latin colonus "colonist, farmer," though awareness of this word might have influenced the sense development in English.
Meaning "professional fool, professional or habitual jester" is c.1600. "The pantomime clown represents a blend of the Shakes[pearean] rustic with one of the stock types of the It. comedy" [Weekley]. Meaning "contemptible person" is from 1920s. Fem. form clowness attested from 1801.
c.1600, "to play the clown onstage," from clown (n.); colloquial sense of "to behave inappropriately" (e.g. clown around, 1932) attested by 1928, perhaps from theatrical slang sense of "play a (non-comical) part farcically or comically" (1891). Related: Clowned; clowning.