What does harlequin mean?

Definitions for harlequin
ˈhɑr lə kwɪn, -kɪnhar·le·quin

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word harlequin.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. harlequinverb

    a clown or buffoon (after the Harlequin character in the commedia dell'arte)

  2. harlequinverb

    variegate with spots or marks

    "His face was harlequined with patches"


  1. harlequinnoun

    a pantomime fool, typically dressed in checkered clothes

  2. harlequinadjective

    brightly coloured, especially in a pattern like that of a harlequin clown's clothes

  3. Etymology: From hellekijn, then in hellequin and in Arlecchino, the name of a popular servant character in commedia dell'arte plays from * ultimately from Herleking, from Herla Cyning, a mythical figure identified with Woden.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Harlequinnoun

    Etymology: This name is said to have been given by Francis of France to a busy buffoon, in ridicule of his enemy Charles le quint. Gilles Ménage derives it more probably from a famous comedian that frequented M. Harlay ’s house, whom his friends called Harlequino, little Harley. Trev.

    The joy of a king for a victory must not be like that of a harlequin upon a letter from his mistress. Dryden.

    The man in graver tragick known,
    Though his best part long since was done,
    Still on the stage desires to tarry;
    And he who play’d the harlequin,
    After the jest still loads the scene,
    Unwilling to retire, though weary. Matthew Prior.


  1. Harlequin

    Harlequin (; Italian: Arlecchino [arlekˈkiːno]; Lombard: Arleqin, Bergamasque pronunciation [arleˈkiː]) is the best-known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian commedia dell'arte, associated with the city of Bergamo. The role is traditionally believed to have been introduced by Zan Ganassa in the late 16th century, was definitively popularized by the Italian actor Tristano Martinelli in Paris in 1584–1585, and became a stock character after Martinelli's death in 1630. The Harlequin is characterized by his chequered costume. His role is that of a light-hearted, nimble, and astute servant, often acting to thwart the plans of his master, and pursuing his own love interest, Columbina, with wit and resourcefulness, often competing with the sterner and melancholic Pierrot. He later develops into a prototype of the romantic hero. Harlequin inherits his physical agility and his trickster qualities, as well as his name, from a mischievous "devil" character in medieval passion plays. The Harlequin character first appeared in England early in the 17th century and took centre stage in the derived genre of the Harlequinade, developed in the early 18th century by John Rich. As the Harlequinade portion of the English dramatic genre pantomime developed, Harlequin was routinely paired with the character Clown. As developed by Joseph Grimaldi around 1800, Clown became the mischievous and brutish foil for the more sophisticated Harlequin, who became more of a romantic character. The most influential portrayers of the Harlequin character in Victorian England were William Payne and his sons the Payne Brothers, the latter active during the 1860s and 1870s.


  1. harlequin

    A harlequin is a character type in traditional pantomime, typically characterized by a masked face, colorful checkered costume, comedic role, and sometimes magical abilities. The term is also often used to describe anything brightly colored or variegated in pattern. It originated from a comic character in Italian Commedia dell'arte and later appeared in French pantomime.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Harlequinnoun

    a buffoon, dressed in party-colored clothes, who plays tricks, often without speaking, to divert the bystanders or an audience; a merry-andrew; originally, a droll rogue of Italian comedy

  2. Harlequin

    to play the droll; to make sport by playing ludicrous tricks

  3. Harlequinverb

    toremove or conjure away, as by a harlequin's trick

  4. Etymology: [F. arlequin, formerly written also harlequin (cf. It, arlecchino), prob. fr. OF. hierlekin, hellequin, goblin, elf, which is prob. of German or Dutch origin; cf. D. hel hell. Cf. Hell, Kin.]


  1. Harlequin

    Harlequin is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell'arte and its descendant, the Harlequinade. The Harlequin is also known to be a type of clown.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Harlequin

    här′le-kwin, or -kin, n. the leading character in a pantomime, the lover of Columbine, in a tight spangled dress, with a wand, by means of which he is supposed to be invisible and to play tricks: a buffoon.—v.i. to play the harlequin.—n. Harlequināde′, the portion of a pantomime in which the harlequin plays a chief part.—Harlequin duck, a species of northern sea-duck, so called from its variegated markings. [Fr. harlequin, arlequin (It. arlecchino), prob. the same as O. Fr. Hellequin, a devil in medieval legend, perh. of Teut. origin.]

The Nuttall Encyclopedia

  1. Harlequin

    a character in a Christmas pantomime, in love with Columbine, presumed to be invisible, and deft at tricks to frustrate those of the clown, who is his rival lover.

Suggested Resources

  1. harlequin

    Song lyrics by harlequin -- Explore a large variety of song lyrics performed by harlequin on the Lyrics.com website.

Etymology and Origins

  1. Harlequin

    From the Italian arlechino, a satirist, a jester.

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  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of harlequin in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of harlequin in Pythagorean Numerology is: 6

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"harlequin." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 21 Jul 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/harlequin>.

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