Definition of clown in US English:

clown

noun

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

    • ‘The film is about a clown who leaves his circus and lives in a building near a railway station.’
    • ‘One of the most enduring, and perhaps the most endearing artistes in any circus is undoubtedly the clown.’
    • ‘His production is set on a deserted seaside pier haunted by the ghosts of circus clowns.’
    • ‘We are not here to act like the clowns of a circus.’
    • ‘And now is the time for all of us to take a closer and careful look at these circus clowns!’
    • ‘A circus clown received stitches to the head after he was thrown through a glass door.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Every year they just book these same unfunny clowns and stupid circus acts.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But, unlike the old circus shows with their clowns and candyfloss, this performance is governed by a sophisticated theatrical sensibility.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She tells a marvellous story of the six-year-old Billy seeing a clown at the circus balancing a birthday cake on his shoulder.’
    • ‘It's easy to forget that some people have good memories of clowns and circuses because it seems so foreign to us.’
    • ‘He, meanwhile, comes from a family of circus clowns and jugglers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He first entered the spotlight as a circus clown aged five and later trained exotic cats and became the show's wild animal trainer.’
    • ‘They are performing like clowns in a circus, entertaining the public.’
    • ‘Certainly, no classic circus is complete without clowns.’
    • ‘Tweedy, who is one of three clowns touring with the circus, made a big impact with the 150 children at the infant school.’
    • ‘Honestly, you should join the circus and become a clown.’
    comic entertainer, pierrot, comedian
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A comical, silly, playful person.
      ‘I was always the class clown’
      • ‘He resorts to being the class clown to cover up for his difficulties.’
      • ‘He was the class clown and easily one of the funniest, most good natured people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.’
      • ‘The class grew louder as one of the class clowns stood up to rant a bit.’
      • ‘He was the class clown, known by all and loved by most.’
      • ‘Luckily, we had four or five guys in the group who must have been the class clowns at school.’
      • ‘I missed a lot at school by not hearing properly, and ended up being the class clown.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I was always a problem child, always the class clown, always seeking attention from others.’
      • ‘He was the class clown, so shy and unsporty that he survived only by making others laugh.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And to that end, he teaches serious professionals how to play the clown.’
      • ‘I was the class clown, you know, that kind of thing, and I gathered around me a group of guys who also were silly.’
      • ‘He was the class clown and he was always the life of the party.’
      • ‘Al soon followed Kenny, being the clown of the bunch he of course was happy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So maybe we are supposed to decide for ourselves if he is just the class clown or not.’
      • ‘He had a restless, attention-seeking nature and loved to play the clown.’
      • ‘Back then, children were expected to entertain themselves, which is how Lucky learnt to play the clown.’
      • ‘Sam is in my class, and we are the trouble makers, or you could call us the class clowns.’
      joker, comedian, comic, humorist, wag, wit, funny girl, funny man, funny woman, prankster, jester, jokester, buffoon, character
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A foolish or incompetent person.
      ‘we need a serious government, not a bunch of clowns’
      • ‘He had real guts but you clowns are just a bunch of capitalist money-makers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The American team performed like a bunch of clowns, me, included, of course.’
      • ‘Just one more incompetent clown that can't slow down a sinking company.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘What a pathetic bunch of clowns on both sides of the argument!’
      • ‘They are all a bunch of clowns as far as I'm concerned.’
      • ‘He has set himself up as the worst type of unprofessional clown playing the fool in public.’
      • ‘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.’
      fool, idiot, dolt, ass, nincompoop, blockhead, dunce, dunderhead, simpleton, ignoramus, donkey, jackass, dullard
      View synonyms
  • 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
    View synonyms

verb

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

    ‘Harvey clowned around pretending to be a dog’
    • ‘Or, they may be clowning around and not concentrating.’
    • ‘She took pictures of school friends clowning around and at summer camp.’
    • ‘She jokes with teammates, clowning through routines in casual moments, and is involved in a social life that she never had before.’
    • ‘They laughed; they clowned around, they playfully argued over who would pickup the tab.’
    • ‘Should I just let him clown around, so he doesn't associate this stuff with work?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At the Junior School, the children clowned around with wigs and face-paints.’
    • ‘All they saw was the fool who clowned around in class.’
    • ‘He continued to clown around and make snide remarks to the others.’
    • ‘These films had minimal storylines and just gave the pop stars an opportunity to clown around and do their thing in between tunes.’
    • ‘Always clowning around, teasing girls, and getting into scraps with others, he's heading for self-destruction.’
    • ‘He said: ‘We heard a huge bang and thought it was somebody clowning around with fireworks.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As you would expect, they're clowning around and posing for the camera, just as children would anywhere else.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Two men spend more time clowning around with brushes than cleaning up.’
    • ‘In theatre, clowning around is a generally accepted thing.’
    • ‘Anyhow, we were getting pretty stupid and tired, and so he started clowning around to make me laugh.’
    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
    View synonyms

Origin

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

Pronunciation

clown

/kloun//klaʊn/