Definition of harlequin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhɑːlɪkwɪn/


1 (Harlequin) A mute character in traditional pantomime, typically masked and dressed in a diamond-patterned costume.
Example sentences
  • Canio's character, Pagliaccio, catches his wife with the young Harlequin, played by the troupe's junior member, Beppe.
  • He mimed adults sneaking stares at him from behind menus in restaurants, little kids brazenly trying to pull off his harlequin's mask, or drivers doing double-takes as they passed in cars.
  • With a photocopied handout of a leering harlequin she explained the different shapes and colors that worked best.
jester, joker, merry andrew, droll
rare zany
1.1 historical A stock comic character in Italian commedia dell’arte.
2 (also harlequin duck) A small duck of fast-flowing streams around the Arctic and North Pacific, the male having mainly grey-blue plumage with bold white markings.
  • Histrionicus histrionicus, family Anatidae.
Example sentences
  • State and federal studies show that 23 out of 25 keystone species, including orcas, sea otters, harbor seals, harlequin ducks and Pacific herring, still have not recovered from the oil spill.
  • A walk along Whiffen Spit, the sandbar that curls around Sooke Harbour, turns up harlequin ducks, oystercatchers, plovers, and, if you're lucky, orca sightings.
  • Lewis cited research demonstrating the effects of boating on bald eagles and harlequin ducks and noted park archaeological sites also could be affected by boaters.


In varied colours; variegated.
Example sentences
  • The custom cabinets look like bright circus blocks, the tile backsplash has a harlequin pattern, and the pendant lights resemble spun cotton candy.
  • It began at 5 O'clock, out on the grounds amid harlequin tents and decorations.
  • The signature area is the harlequin pattern of terracotta, green, and yellow glass tiles forming the back-splash behind the cooktop.


Late 16th century: from obsolete French, from earlier Herlequin (or Hellequin), the name of the leader of a legendary troop of demon horsemen; perhaps ultimately related to Old English Herla cyning 'King Herla', a mythical figure sometimes identified with Woden.

  • Harlequin is the name of a mute character, masked and dressed in a diamond-patterned costume, who played a leading role in the harlequinade (late 18th century), a section of a traditional pantomime. As pantomime developed from being a prologue into a dramatized story, it included a transformation scene in which Harlequin and his mistress Columbine performed a dance. Harlequin comes from French, from the earlier Herlequin (or Hellequin), the leader of a legendary troop of demon horsemen. It may ultimately be related to Old English Herla cyning ‘King Herla’, a mythical figure found in early British legend. See pantomime

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: har|le¦quin

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