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[kloun] /klaʊn/

a comic performer, as in a circus, theatrical production, or the like, who wears an outlandish costume and makeup and entertains by pantomiming common situations or actions in exaggerated or ridiculous fashion, by juggling or tumbling, etc.
a person who acts like a clown; comedian; joker; buffoon; jester.
a prankster; a practical joker.
Slang. a coarse, ill-bred person; a boor.
a peasant; rustic.
verb (used without object)
to act like a clown.
a comic entertainer, usually grotesquely costumed and made up, appearing in the circus
any performer who elicits an amused response
someone who plays jokes or tricks
a person who acts in a comic or buffoon-like manner
a coarse clumsy rude person; boor
(archaic) a countryman or rustic
verb (intransitive)
to perform as a clown
to play jokes or tricks
to act foolishly

1861, verbal noun from clown (v.).

1560s, clowne, also cloyne, “rustic, boor, peasant,” origin uncertain. Perhaps from Scandinavian dialect (cf. Icelandic klunni “clumsy, boorish fellow;” Swedish kluns “a hard knob; a clumsy fellow,” Danish klunt “log, block”), or akin to North Frisian klönne “clumsy person.” Or, less likely, from Latin colonus “colonist, farmer,” though awareness of this word might have influenced the sense development in English.

Meaning “professional fool, professional or habitual jester” is c.1600. “The pantomime clown represents a blend of the Shakes[pearean] rustic with one of the stock types of the It. comedy” [Weekley]. Meaning “contemptible person” is from 1920s. Fem. form clowness attested from 1801.

c.1600, “to play the clown onstage,” from clown (n.); colloquial sense of “to behave inappropriately” (e.g. clown around, 1932) attested by 1928, perhaps from theatrical slang sense of “play a (non-comical) part farcically or comically” (1891). Related: Clowned; clowning.


A person for whom the speaker feels mild contempt, esp one whose behavior merits derision: Get this clown off my back and let me help you (1920s+)


(also clown around) To behave frivolously; persist in inappropriate levity (1940s+)


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