Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search


The clown brothers Albert, François and Paul Fratellini, of the famous Italian Fratellini family, in 1932


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



zany ‎(comparative zanier, superlative zaniest)

  1. Unusual and bizarre in a funny, comical way; outlandish; clownish.
    • 1999, Alyn Shipton, “Gillespiana”, in Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-509132-8, page 293:
      Press articles emphasized his [Dizzy Gillespie's] ambassadorial role and drew attention to the paradox that he was a shrewd musician and leader despite his zany image.
    • 2000, Alan H. Levy, Rube Waddell: The Zany, Brilliant Life of a Strikeout Artist, Jefferson, N.C.: London: McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0-7864-0786-6, page 241:
      When playing for Connie Mack, Rube [Waddell]'s pattern after one of his zany outbursts usually involved promises of good behavior and a spurt of excellent pitching.
    • 2013, William Paul, “No Escaping the Depression: Utopian Comedy and the Aesthetics of Escapism in Frank Capra's You Can't Take it with You (1938)”, in Andrew Horton and Joanna E. Rapf, editors, A Companion to Film Comedy, Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-1-4443-3859-1, page 280:
      This runs counter to the play, where Grandpa is always benignly indulgent of all his zany progeny and their equally zany spouses, and is even somewhat zany himself.
    • 2015, Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón, “The Sassy Black Cook and the Return of the Magic Negress: Popular Representations of Black Women's Food Work”, in Jennifer Jensen Wallach, editor, Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama, Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, ISBN 978-1-55728-679-6, page 117:
      The montage goes on to show scenes of Carla singing, dancing, meditating, breaking the tension amongst her co-cheftestants with sing-a-longs and “hootie-hoo” lessons, and ultimately wooing the judges with a combination of her zany personality and solid cooking skills.
  2. Ludicrously or incongruously comical.


Derived terms[edit]



zany ‎(plural zanies)

  1. (obsolete) A fool or clown, especially one whose business on the stage is 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.
    • 1996, Fiona Haslam, From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-century Britain, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-0-85323-640-5, page 69:
      Part of the illusory world is the 'quack' or mountebank who can be seen standing on his own special platform in the centre of the crowd []. Such a person travelled round to fairs and markets selling his nostrums or medicines. This character is dressed in a lace hat, long periwig and embroidered coat with lace cuffs, and is attended by his zany, who is wearing a chequered harlequin outfit and is 'quacking' or 'puffing' his master's wares. No seventeenth- or eighteenth-century mountebank was complete without his zany or 'Merry Andrew' – a term originally applied to Dr Andrew Boorde, physician to Henry VIII and noted for his ready wit and humour, who was the subject of many broadside ballads.


zany ‎(third-person singular simple present zanies, present participle zanying, simple past and past participle zanied)

  1. (obsolete) To mimic foolishly.