zany

[zey-nee]
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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.

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

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


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British Dictionary definitions for zany

zany

adjective -nier or -niest
  1. comical in an endearing way; imaginatively funny or comical, esp in behaviour
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
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 zany
n.

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.

adj.

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper