• synonyms


adjective, za·ni·er, za·ni·est.
  1. ludicrously or whimsically comical; clownish.
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noun, plural za·nies.
  1. one who plays the clown or fool in order to amuse others.
  2. a comically wild or eccentric person.
  3. a secondary stock character in old comedies who mimicked his master.
  4. a professional buffoon; clown.
  5. a silly person; simpleton.
  6. a slavish attendant or follower.
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Origin of zany

1560–70; (< Middle French) < Italian zan(n)i (later zanno) a servant character in the commedia dell’arte, perhaps orig. the character's name, the Upper Italian form of Tuscan Gianni, for Giovanni John
Related formsza·ni·ly, adverbza·ni·ness, za·ny·ism, nounza·ny·ish, adjective


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

kooky, eccentric, wacky, madcap, goofy, sappy, loony, comical, campy, fool, camp, screwball, idiot, nut, jester, clown, wag, joker, moron, comedian

Examples from the Web for zanier

Contemporary Examples

British Dictionary definitions for zanier


adjective -nier or -niest
  1. comical in an endearing way; imaginatively funny or comical, esp in behaviour
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noun plural -nies
  1. a clown or buffoon, esp one in old comedies who imitated other performers with ludicrous effect
  2. a ludicrous or foolish person
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Derived Formszanily, adverbzaniness, nounzanyism, noun

Word Origin

C16: from Italian zanni, from dialect (Venice and Lombardy) Zanni, nickname for Giovanni John; one of the traditional names for a clown
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 zanier



1869, from zany (n.). Related: Zanily; zaniness.

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comic performer, 1580s, from French zani, from Italian zani, zanni "a zany, clown," originally Zanni, Venetian dialect variant of Gianni, pet form of Giovanni "John." A stock character in old comedies, he aped the principal actors.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper