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[pik-uh-resk] /ˌpɪk əˈrɛsk/
pertaining to, characteristic of, or characterized by a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in realistic detail, the everyday life of the common people:
picaresque novel; picaresque hero.
of, relating to, or resembling rogues.
Origin of picaresque
From the Spanish word picaresco, dating back to 1800-10. See picaro, -esque
Related forms
unpicaresque, adjective
Can be confused
picaresque, picturesque (see synonym study at picturesque)
2. prankish, rascally, devilish, raffish. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for picaresque
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then there were some of the writers of the picaresque novels.

    Lavengro George Borrow
  • The artist's picaresque burin had made Robespierre as hideous as possible.

    The Gods are Athirst Anatole France
  • There were in Germany popular tales which were picaresque novels in embryo.


    William Graham Sumner
  • A variety of the picaresque species was the "books of beggars."


    William Graham Sumner
  • He has taken a rascal for the hero of his picaresque and rattling romance.

  • But the narratives also look backward to an older type, the picaresque.

  • His square face was confident, his foxy mustache was picaresque.

    Main Street Sinclair Lewis
  • Here again, of course, the picaresque model comes in, and there is a good deal of directly borrowed matter.

British Dictionary definitions for picaresque


of or relating to a type of fiction in which the hero, a rogue, goes through a series of episodic adventures. It originated in Spain in the 16th century
of or involving rogues or picaroons
Word Origin
C19: via French from Spanish picaresco, from pícaro a rogue
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for picaresque

1810, from Spanish picaresco "roguish," from picaro "rogue," of uncertain origin, possibly from picar "to pierce," from Vulgar Latin *piccare (see pike (n.2)). Originally in roman picaresque "rogue novel," the classic example being "Gil Blas."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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