Definition of clown in English:

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Pronunciation: /klaʊn/


1A comic entertainer, especially one in a circus, wearing a traditional costume and exaggerated make-up: a circus clown
More example sentences
  • Tweedy, who is one of three clowns touring with the circus, made a big impact with the 150 children at the infant school.
  • Other attractions at the circus include clowns, acrobats, wire-walkers, trapeze artists, an equestrian display and jugglers.
  • This was the time also when the circus clowns, saltimbanques and harlequins began to appear on his canvases, with their own smiling kinds of loneliness.
comic entertainer, Pierrot, comedian
historical jester, fool, zany, harlequin, merry andrew, Punchinello
1.1A playful, extrovert person: Martin was always the class clown
More example sentences
  • Back then, children were expected to entertain themselves, which is how Lucky learnt to play the clown.
  • And to that end, he teaches serious professionals how to play the clown.
  • He had a restless, attention-seeking nature and loved to play the clown.
joker, comedian, comic, humorist, wag, wit, funny man/woman/girl, prankster, jester, jokester, buffoon, character
informal case, hoot, scream, laugh, kidder, wisecracker, riot, barrel of laughs
Australian/New Zealand informal hard case
informal, dated card, caution
1.2A foolish or incompetent person: we need a serious government, not a bunch of clowns
More example sentences
  • If there are clowns and incompetents and criminals in your midst and you protect them, you're just as bad as they are and you command no respect at all from anyone.
  • For a moment I smiled like a foolish clown, then twiddled my thumbs.
  • And I think most people see them as a bunch of clowns.
fool, idiot, dolt, ass, nincompoop, blockhead, dunce, dunderhead, simpleton, ignoramus, donkey, jackass, dullard;
bungler, blunderer, incompetent, bumbler, botcher, amateur
informal moron, clot, dope, mutt, chump, numbskull, twit, nitwit, halfwit, bonehead, fathead, birdbrain, twerp, berk, ninny
British informal bodger, prat, numpty, berk, nit
British vulgar slang knobhead
2 archaic An unsophisticated country person; a rustic.
Example sentences
  • The hob part of hobgoblin was a familiar form of Robin or Robert and became a standard name for a rustic person or a clown.


[no object]
Behave in a comical or playful way: Harvey clowned around pretending to be a dog
More example sentences
  • They laughed; they clowned around, they playfully argued over who would pickup the tab.
  • All they saw was the fool who clowned around in class.
  • At the Junior School, the children clowned around with wigs and face-paints.
fool around/about, play the fool, act foolishly, act the clown/fool/goat, play about/around, monkey about/around, play tricks, indulge in horseplay, engage in high jinks;
joke, jest
informal mess about/around, lark (about/around), horse about/around
British informal muck about/around
North American informal cut up
British vulgar slang piss about/around, arse about/around, bugger about/around
dated play the giddy goat





Mid 16th century (in sense 2 of the noun): perhaps of Low German origin.

  • The earliest recorded uses of clown means ‘an unsophisticated country person’. Before long it was being applied to any rude or ill-mannered person, and by 1600 the word was also being used to refer to the character of a fool or jester in a stage play, from which the comic entertainer in a circus developed. For some reason quite a few people seem to be afraid of clowns, and a word for the condition has been coined coulrophobia. The first element was borrowed from a Greek word for a stilt-walker, clowns not being known in the classical world.

Words that rhyme with clown

brown, Browne, crown, down, downtown, drown, frown, gown, low-down, noun, renown, run-down, town, upside-down, uptown

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: clown

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