Definition of clown in US English:

clown

noun

  • 1A comic entertainer, especially one in a circus, wearing a traditional costume and exaggerated makeup.

    • ‘He, meanwhile, comes from a family of circus clowns and jugglers.’
    • ‘Certainly, no classic circus is complete without clowns.’
    • ‘They are performing like clowns in a circus, entertaining the public.’
    • ‘Her mother was a trapeze artist and her father was also a circus performer and, as a child, she travelled widely and was inspired to learn to stiltwalk by the circus clowns.’
    • ‘Other attractions at the circus include clowns, acrobats, wire-walkers, trapeze artists, an equestrian display and jugglers.’
    • ‘Every year they just book these same unfunny clowns and stupid circus acts.’
    • ‘She described how she was trained in karate and had mastered the technique of dropping from a low-flying plane without a parachute - a trick taught to her by a circus clown.’
    • ‘He was decked out in a sparkly blue clown's outfit, and had a bunch of brightly coloured helium filled balloons tied to each wrist.’
    • ‘The film is about a clown who leaves his circus and lives in a building near a railway station.’
    • ‘She tells a marvellous story of the six-year-old Billy seeing a clown at the circus balancing a birthday cake on his shoulder.’
    • ‘Tweedy, who is one of three clowns touring with the circus, made a big impact with the 150 children at the infant school.’
    • ‘It's easy to forget that some people have good memories of clowns and circuses because it seems so foreign to us.’
    • ‘A circus clown received stitches to the head after he was thrown through a glass door.’
    • ‘And now is the time for all of us to take a closer and careful look at these circus clowns!’
    • ‘But, unlike the old circus shows with their clowns and candyfloss, this performance is governed by a sophisticated theatrical sensibility.’
    • ‘One of the most enduring, and perhaps the most endearing artistes in any circus is undoubtedly the clown.’
    • ‘We are not here to act like the clowns of a circus.’
    • ‘He first entered the spotlight as a circus clown aged five and later trained exotic cats and became the show's wild animal trainer.’
    • ‘His production is set on a deserted seaside pier haunted by the ghosts of circus clowns.’
    • ‘Honestly, you should join the circus and become a clown.’
    • ‘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
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    1. 1.1 A comical, silly, playful person.
      ‘I was always the class clown’
      • ‘The class grew louder as one of the class clowns stood up to rant a bit.’
      • ‘He resorts to being the class clown to cover up for his difficulties.’
      • ‘He had a restless, attention-seeking nature and loved to play the clown.’
      • ‘Luckily, we had four or five guys in the group who must have been the class clowns at school.’
      • ‘So maybe we are supposed to decide for ourselves if he is just the class clown or not.’
      • ‘I missed a lot at school by not hearing properly, and ended up being the class clown.’
      • ‘He was the class clown and he was always the life of the party.’
      • ‘I was the class clown, you know, that kind of thing, and I gathered around me a group of guys who also were silly.’
      • ‘She almost laughed: that kind of response was typical of him, he was a clown, plain and simple, who loved to have fun, and teased all the time.’
      • ‘And to that end, he teaches serious professionals how to play the clown.’
      • ‘I was always a problem child, always the class clown, always seeking attention from others.’
      • ‘I've heard it said that it's never the class clown who goes into comedy but the quiet one who just observes.’
      • ‘He seemed like a class clown, and most girls flock towards that.’
      • ‘He was the class clown and easily one of the funniest, most good natured people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.’
      • ‘At heart, he loved to play the clown, and it was such a release to sit on a street corner and make a fool out of himself from time to time.’
      • ‘He was the class clown, known by all and loved by most.’
      • ‘Sam is in my class, and we are the trouble makers, or you could call us the class clowns.’
      • ‘Back then, children were expected to entertain themselves, which is how Lucky learnt to play the clown.’
      • ‘He was the class clown, so shy and unsporty that he survived only by making others laugh.’
      • ‘Al soon followed Kenny, being the clown of the bunch he of course was happy.’
      joker, comedian, comic, humorist, wag, wit, funny girl, funny man, funny woman, prankster, jester, jokester, buffoon, character
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    2. 1.2 A foolish or incompetent person.
      ‘we need a serious government, not a bunch of clowns’
      • ‘So the problem here lies not merely in the President's own problems, which, I think, are severe enough by themselves, but in this bunch of clowns around him.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Just one more incompetent clown that can't slow down a sinking company.’
      • ‘The American team performed like a bunch of clowns, me, included, of course.’
      • ‘Well, we still have over a year to endure this collection of amateur clowns, so who knows what new hilarious skit they will produce in that time.’
      • ‘And I think most people see them as a bunch of clowns.’
      • ‘They are all a bunch of clowns as far as I'm concerned.’
      • ‘What a pathetic bunch of clowns on both sides of the argument!’
      • ‘For a moment I smiled like a foolish clown, then twiddled my thumbs.’
      • ‘He has set himself up as the worst type of unprofessional clown playing the fool in public.’
      • ‘He had real guts but you clowns are just a bunch of capitalist money-makers.’
      fool, idiot, dolt, ass, nincompoop, blockhead, dunce, dunderhead, simpleton, ignoramus, donkey, jackass, dullard
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  • 2archaic An unsophisticated country person; a rustic.

    • ‘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.’
    countryman, countrywoman, peasant, daughter of the soil, son of the soil, country bumpkin, bumpkin, yokel, country cousin
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verb

[no object]
  • Behave in a comical way; act playfully.

    ‘Harvey clowned around pretending to be a dog’
    • ‘Should I just let him clown around, so he doesn't associate this stuff with work?’
    • ‘She jokes with teammates, clowning through routines in casual moments, and is involved in a social life that she never had before.’
    • ‘Anyhow, we were getting pretty stupid and tired, and so he started clowning around to make me laugh.’
    • ‘These films had minimal storylines and just gave the pop stars an opportunity to clown around and do their thing in between tunes.’
    • ‘All they saw was the fool who clowned around in class.’
    • ‘They laughed; they clowned around, they playfully argued over who would pickup the tab.’
    • ‘Or, they may be clowning around and not concentrating.’
    • ‘In theatre, clowning around is a generally accepted thing.’
    • ‘At the Junior School, the children clowned around with wigs and face-paints.’
    • ‘The most extraordinary thing is the way they distract themselves by clowning around in front of their home-movie camera, a habit inculcated in them by their father in happier times.’
    • ‘He said: ‘We heard a huge bang and thought it was somebody clowning around with fireworks.’’
    • ‘Two men spend more time clowning around with brushes than cleaning up.’
    • ‘He has taken the order to stop clowning around in the school car park very badly and complains bitterly that we are all stopping him becoming famous.’
    • ‘She took pictures of school friends clowning around and at summer camp.’
    • ‘He continued to clown around and make snide remarks to the others.’
    • ‘As you would expect, they're clowning around and posing for the camera, just as children would anywhere else.’
    • ‘But here, we're all relaxed, and we're just a bunch of guys having fun and clowning around at Christmas.’
    • ‘But even at 18 he couldn't kill off an instinct to clown around.’
    • ‘Always clowning around, teasing girls, and getting into scraps with others, he's heading for self-destruction.’
    • ‘They start entertaining themselves by clowning around a lot and being silly.’
    • ‘Children clowned around with a jester at a fun workshop on April Fool's Day.’
    fool about, fool around, play the fool, act foolishly, act the clown, act the fool, act the goat, play about, play around, monkey about, monkey around, play tricks, indulge in horseplay, engage in high jinks
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Origin

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

Pronunciation

clown

/kloun//klaʊn/