[ hahr-luh-kwin, -kin ]
/ ˈhɑr lə kwɪn, -kɪn /


(often initial capital letter) a comic character in commedia dell'arte and the harlequinade, usually masked, dressed in multicolored, diamond-patterned tights, and carrying a wooden sword or magic wand.
a buffoon.
any of various small snakes having bright diamond-pattern scales.


fancifully varied in color, decoration, etc.: harlequin pants.
resembling a harlequin's mask: harlequin glasses.

Origin of harlequin

1580–90; < French, Middle French (h)arlequin, semantically (and in part phonetically) < Italian arlecchino < Middle French, phonetically continuing Old French *harlequin, halequin a malevolent spirit (Compare mesniee Hellequin a troop of demonic horsemen, literally, Hellequin's escort), probably < Middle English *Herla king, Old English *Her(e)la cyning King Herle, presumably a legendary figure, rendered in AL as Herla rex; compare Old High German Herilo a personal name, derivative of heri armed forces


har·le·quin·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for harlequin

British Dictionary definitions for harlequin

/ (ˈhɑːlɪkwɪn) /


(sometimes capital) theatre a stock comic character originating in the commedia dell'arte; the foppish lover of Columbine in the English harlequinade. He is usually represented in diamond-patterned multicoloured tights, wearing a black mask
a clown or buffoon


varied in colour or decoration
(of certain animals) having a white coat with irregular patches of black or other dark colourharlequin Great Dane
comic; ludicrous

Word Origin for harlequin

C16: from Old French Herlequin, Hellequin leader of band of demon horsemen, perhaps from Middle English Herle king (unattested) King Herle, mythical being identified with Woden
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