harlequin


noun

  1. (often initial capital letter) a comic character in commedia dell’arte and the harlequinade, usually masked, dressed in multicolored, diamond-patterned tights, and carrying a wooden sword or magic wand.
  2. a buffoon.
  3. any of various small snakes having bright diamond-pattern scales.

adjective

  1. fancifully varied in color, decoration, etc.: harlequin pants.
  2. resembling a harlequin’s mask: harlequin glasses.

noun

  1. (sometimes capital) theatre a stock comic character originating in the commedia dell’arte; the foppish lover of Columbine in the English harlequinade. He is usually represented in diamond-patterned multicoloured tights, wearing a black mask
  2. a clown or buffoon

adjective

  1. varied in colour or decoration
  2. (of certain animals) having a white coat with irregular patches of black or other dark colourharlequin Great Dane
  3. comic; ludicrous
n.

1580s, from Middle French harlequin, from Old French Herlequin, Hellequin, etc., leader of la maisnie Hellequin, a troop of demons who rode the night air on horses. He corresponds to Old English Herla cyning “King Herla,” mythical character sometimes identified as Woden; possibly also the same as the German Erlkönig “Elf King” of the Goethe poem. Sometimes also associated with Herrequin, 9c. count of Boulogne, who was proverbially wicked. In English pantomime, a mute character who carries a magic wand. His Italian form, arlecchino, is one of the stock characters of commedia del’arte. From his ludicrous dress comes the English adjective meaning “particolored” (1779).

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