adj. za·ni·er, za·ni·est
Comical or ludicrous because of incongruity or strangeness.
n. pl. za·nies
1. A comical person given to extravagant or outlandish behavior.
2. A ludicrous, buffoonish character in old comedies who attempts feebly to mimic the tricks of the clown.
[French zani, from Italian dialectal zanni, from Zanni, variant of Italian Gianni, nickname for Giovanni, John, the name of servants who act as clowns in commedia dell'arte.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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