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The title page of the novella La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades (The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities, 1554) published in Medina del Campo, Spain, by Mateo and Francisco del Canto. The work is regarded as the first picaresque (noun sense).


From picaro (adventurer, rogue) +‎ -esque (suffix meaning ‘in the style or manner of’ forming adjectives), modelled after Spanish picaresco (in the style or manner of a picaro; picaresque), from pícaro (rogue) + -esco (suffix forming adjectives indicating a relation). The English word is cognate with French picaresque (attested later than the English word), Italian picaresco, Portuguese picaresco.[1]



picaresque (comparative more picaresque, superlative most picaresque)

  1. Of or pertaining to adventurers or rogues.
    Synonym: roguish
  2. (literature) Characteristic of a genre of Spanish satiric novel dealing with the adventures of a roguish hero.
    • 1822, “Art. I.—Primera, y Segunda Parte de Guzman de Alfarache, por Matheo Aleman, Criado del Rey nuestro Senor, Natural, y Vezino de Sevilla. Madrid, 1723. 4to. The Rogue; or, The Life of Guzman de Alfarache. Written in the Spanish by Matheo Aleman, Servant to His Catholic Majestie, and Borne in Sevill. London, printed for Edward Blount, 1623.”, in The Retrospective Review, volume V, part II, London: Charles Baldwyn, [], OCLC 884714681, pages 189–190:
      A mere piece of roguery told in the abstract, without the proper picaresque ornaments, its manifold sinuosities and dexterities, has no interest for the reader; it may recommend the executor of it to the administration of a cat-o-nine-tails, or to an honourable post in the gallies: but there is no music in it without the proper accompaniments.
    • 1839, Henry Hallam, “Section III. On Works of Fiction.”, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe, in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, volume II, London: John Murray, [], OCLC 1010696630, paragraph 41, pages 435–436:
      Spain became celebrated about the end of this century for her novels in the picaresque style, of which Lazarillo de Tormes is the oldest extant specimen.
    • 1923, William J[oseph] Long, “Eighteenth-century Literature”, in Outlines of English Literature: [], Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Ginn and Company, OCLC 4226121, page 189:
      He [Daniel Defoe] produced an amazing variety of wares: newspapers, magazines, ghost stories, biographies, journals, memoirs, satires, picaresque romances, essays on religion, reform, trade, projects, – in all more than two hundred works.
    • 2009 November 1, Neil McDonald, “Scaramouche and the Swashbuckler”, in Quadrant[1], volume LIII, number 11 (number 461 overall), Sydney, N.S.W.: Quadrant Magazine Limited, ISSN 0033-5002, OCLC 241426229, archived from the original on 15 April 2018, page 103:
      Opening in France just before the Revolution and concluding just after the attack on the Tuileries, [Rafael] Sabatini's novel deftly combines historical romance, picaresque novel and revenge tragedy.
    • 2014, Konstantin Mierau; Binne de Haan, “Introduction: Bringing together Microhistory and the Picaresque Novel: Studying Menocchio, Guzmán de Alfarache, and Kin”, in Binne de Haan and Konstantin Mierau, editors, Microhistory and the Picaresque Novel: A First Exploration into Commensurable Perspectives, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, →ISBN, page 2:
      The picaresque novel finds its origins in the humanist search for an expansion of the historiographical genre. [...] The protagonist of the picaresque novel is the pícaro, a character of lowly descent who, by passing through a wide array of professions, attempts to rise in social standing.

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picaresque (plural picaresques)

  1. (literature) A picaresque novel.


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