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 formsun·pic·a·resque, adjective
Can be confusedpicaresque picturesque (see synonym study at picturesque)

Synonyms for picaresque

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for picaresque

Contemporary Examples of picaresque

Historical Examples of picaresque

  • Then there were some of the writers of the picaresque novels.


    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.

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 for picaresque

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

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