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From Middle French zani, zanni, from Italian zanni (a kind of masked clown character), itself (when capitalized) a dialectal form of Giovanni.


zany ‎(comparative zanier, superlative zaniest)

  1. unusual and bizarre in a funny, comical way; outlandish; clownish
  2. ludicrously or incongruously comical


Derived terms[edit]



zany ‎(plural zanies)

  1. (obsolete) A fool or clown. Especially one whose business on the stage was to imitate foolishly the actions of the principal clown
    • John Donne
      Then write that I may follow, and so be / Thy echo, thy debtor, thy foil, thy zany.
    • Alexander Pope
      Preacher at once, and zany of thy age.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4
      So there he caught me lying like a zany on the ground. You may guess I stood at attention soon enough, but told him I was looking at the founds to see if they wanted underpinning from the floods.


  • 1949, John Dover Wilson (compiler), Life in Shakespeare's England. A Book of Elizabethan Prose, Cambridge at the University Press. 1st ed. 1911, 2nd ed. 1913, 8th reprint. In Glossary and Notes