Media Studies

  • noun a comic performer, usually in a circus, who often wears an outlandish costume and heavy makeup


  • The clown of circus and pantomime, in his baggy costume,whitened face, grotesque red lips, and odd little tuft of black hair,probably derives ultimately from the devil as he appeared in medievalmiracle plays. He is also the descendant of many court foolsand jesters and of the characters of the commedia dell'arte.Of all the clowns, Joseph Grimaldi (1779 - 1837) andthe Swiss Grock (1880 - 1959), were outstanding.

    In the plays of Shakespeare and the Elizabethans the term'clown' is usually reserved for a slow-witted buffoon, such as theanonymous clowns in Othello and Antony and Cleopatraand the gravediggers in Hamlet. Purveyors of witty sophisticatedhumour, such as Feste in Twelfth Night and Touchstone in AsYou Like It, are called fools.

Origin & History of “clown”

Clown’s antecedents are obscure. Its earliest recorded sense is ‘unsophisticated or boorish country fellow’, which has led to speculation that it may come ultimately from Latin colonus ‘colonist, farmer’ (residence in the country often being associated with backwardness or lack of sophistication, as in the case heathen and pagan). Others, however, see a more direct source in a Germanic language from the Low Countries or Scandinavia: north Frisian klönne and Icelandic klunni, both meaning ‘clumsy person’, have been compared.