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harlequin

[hahr-luh-kwin, -kin] /ˈhɑr lə kwɪn, -kɪn/
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
4.
fancifully varied in color, decoration, etc.:
harlequin pants.
5.
resembling a harlequin's mask:
harlequin glasses.
Origin
1580-1590
1580-90; < French, Middle French (h)arlequin, semantically (and in part phonetically) < Italian arlecchino < Middle French, phonetically continuing Old French *harlequin, halequin a malevolent spirit (Compare mesniee Hellequin a troop of demonic horsemen, literally, Hellequin's escort), probably < Middle English *Herla king, Old English *Her(e)la cyning King Herle, presumably a legendary figure, rendered in AL as Herla rex; compare Old High German Herilo a personal name, derivative of heri armed forces
Related forms
harlequinism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for harlequin
  • From the underside of a leaf, tiny harlequin cabbage bugs hatch from their hinged egg cases.
  • As a harlequin bumblingly juggles, he is cloned by two cinematic images of himself, juggling without a miss.
  • Those toads that do not share these traits, such as the harlequin, are not doing as well.
British Dictionary definitions for harlequin

harlequin

/ˈhɑːlɪkwɪn/
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
3.
varied in colour or decoration
4.
(of certain animals) having a white coat with irregular patches of black or other dark colour harlequin Great Dane
5.
comic; ludicrous
Word Origin
C16: from Old French Herlequin, Hellequin leader of band of demon horsemen, perhaps from Middle English Herle king (unattested) King Herle, mythical being identified with Woden
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for harlequin
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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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