[ kloun ]
See synonyms for: clownclowningclownishnessclownish on

  1. 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.

  2. a person who acts like a clown; comedian; joker; buffoon; jester.

  1. a prankster; a practical joker.

  2. Slang. a coarse, ill-bred person; a boor.

  3. a peasant; rustic.

verb (used without object)
  1. to act like a clown.

Origin of clown

1555–65; earlier cloyne, clowne, perhaps akin to Old Norse klunni boor, Danish dialect klunds,Swedish dialect klunn log

Other words for clown

Other words from clown

  • clownish, adjective
  • clown·ish·ly, adverb
  • clown·ish·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use clown in a sentence

  • The crowded theatre was wholly relieved, itself again, in a succeeding passage of trivial clowning.

    Cytherea | Joseph Hergesheimer
  • The bears themselves perform their parts most decorously, without any horseplay or clowning.

    Practical Cinematography and Its Applications | Frederick Arthur Ambrose Talbot
  • This was a bit of his clowning humor, a purely manufactured and as it were mechanical joke or ebullience of soul.

    Twelve Men | Theodore Dreiser
  • The tall, peaked hat was a great aid to the clown in my early days of clowning.

    The Autobiography of a Clown | Isaac Frederick Marcosson
  • To be a successful clown you had also to be a good pantomimist, because all clowning is really based on the pantomime.

    The Autobiography of a Clown | Isaac Frederick Marcosson

British Dictionary definitions for clown


/ (klaʊn) /

  1. a comic entertainer, usually grotesquely costumed and made up, appearing in the circus

  2. any performer who elicits an amused response

  1. someone who plays jokes or tricks

  2. a person who acts in a comic or buffoon-like manner

  3. a coarse clumsy rude person; boor

  4. archaic a countryman or rustic

  1. to perform as a clown

  2. to play jokes or tricks

  1. to act foolishly

Origin of clown

C16: perhaps of Low German origin; compare Frisian klönne, Icelandic klunni clumsy fellow

Derived forms of clown

  • clownery, noun
  • clownish, adjective
  • clownishly, adverb
  • clownishness, noun

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