adjective, za·ni·er, za·ni·est.

ludicrously or whimsically comical; clownish.

noun, plural za·nies.

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

Synonyms for zany Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for zaniness

Contemporary Examples of zaniness

  • Gingrich Restrains His Zaniness Newt confesses that he's been editing his words in an effort not to appear to be "zany."

    The Daily Beast logo
    Fox News Iowa Debate Best Moments (Video)

    The Daily Beast Video

    December 16, 2011

  • But whatever her professions of zaniness, lately Barrymore has seemed awfully grown up.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Roller Girl

    Nicole LaPorte

    October 1, 2009

British Dictionary definitions for zaniness


adjective -nier or -niest

comical in an endearing way; imaginatively funny or comical, esp in behaviour

noun plural -nies

a clown or buffoon, esp one in old comedies who imitated other performers with ludicrous effect
a ludicrous or foolish person
Derived Formszanily, adverbzaniness, nounzanyism, noun

Word Origin for zany

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 zaniness



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



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper