Connotations of 35 Words for Funny People

By Mark Nichol - 3 minute read

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Fun and folly are endemic elements of human nature, and the English language abounds with words to label people who inspire laughter, whether light-hearted or lacerating and whether intentional or otherwise. Here are terms describing funny and/or foolish individuals or characters.

1. Antic: now mostly confined to refer in plural noun form to humorous or playful behavior, traditionally described a comic entertainer whose performance is ridiculously comic; also a rare adjective meaning “absurd” or “playful”
2. Buffo: an opera singer who performs comic roles; a little-known synonym for clown as well
3. Buffoon: derived from buffo; is also a synonym for clown, though used as well to refer to an ignorant, stupid person
4. Card: an amusing person; possibly derives from the playing card designating a joker
5. Clown: a venerable term derived from a word for a clumsy person; refers to the traditional gaudily attired and made-up circus performer, or more loosely to a humorous performer or a person who jokes or acts foolishly; also connotes a boorish or simple-minded person, or someone who unintentionally invites derision
6-7. Comedian/comedienne: generally refers to a professional teller of jokes; comedienne is the traditional feminine form, though the original form usually applies to people of both sexes, making the feminine form superfluous
8. Comic: a synonym for comedian; as an adjective, it refers to something humorous
9. Cutup: a boisterously amusing person
10. Droll: usually employed as an adjective to describe odd or whimsical behavior; also applies to a comedian or jester
11. Farceur: a witty person, or one who writes stories or scripts that involve plots with ridiculous and often satirical elements
12. Fool: a traditional entertainer for the nobility with a costume and props that inspired modern-day clowns; by extension, it also refers to one who exercises poor judgment or is the victim of a prank, or to a mentally ill person whose behavior is suggestive of a fool; it also applies to people enthusiastic about or obsessed with something (“She’s a dancing fool”); the verb form means “to joke or trick,” and fool can also be an adjective meaning “foolish” (“He went around shouting his fool head off”)
13. Funnyman: synonymous with comedian or humorist
14-15. Gagman/gagster: variants referring to someone paid to write jokes or humorous sketches or to comedians; gagster can also mean “a practical joker”
16. Gracioso: a buffoon in traditional Spanish comedy
17. Harlequin: the name of a stock character in traditional comic performance, distinguished by a mask and patchwork tights; the latter feature prompted the extended meanings of textiles or animal markings resembling a patchwork; harlequin is also a synonym for clown
18. Humorist: a professional writer (or teller) of jokes or humorous stories or essays
19. Jester: in addition to being a synonym for fool, simply a term for one who jokes
20-21. Joker/jokester: someone who tells jokes or acts comically, but joker is also a synonym for fellow or guy, though it’s rarely neutral and is often at least mildly insulting; also the name of a wild card in card decks, as well as a term for a word, phrase, or clause that complicates a document or a legislative bill, or a similarly obstructive element, or a reference to a figurative wild card
22. Madcap: although best known as an adjective referring to capricious, foolish, or reckless behavior, can also be applied as a noun denoting a person who exhibits one or more of these characteristics
23. Merry-andrew: a clownish personality
24. Mime: a specific variety of clown who uses gestures and mimicry to entertain and does not speak; it also refers to traditional entertainments that are not necessarily comic in tone
25. Mimic: synonymous with mime but also refers to someone with skillful at imitation, impersonation, or impression; it’s also a verb that refers to imitation or simulation
26. Motley: a synonym for jester that derives from that particular type of performer’s characteristically patched-together-looking costume; the word also refers to the patchwork costume or to a random mixture or a ragtag ensemble; in adjectival form, it applies to the last two senses
27. Mummer: an actor in a pantomime, which isn’t necessarily humorous; also has a humorous connotation of someone who wears a costume or a disguise in a festival or public event and may act comically
28. Pantaloon (or pantalone): a stock character in traditional comedy distinguished by his namesake attire; the word also refers to various types of trousers (pants is a truncated form)
29. Scaramouch(e): a boastful but cowardly clown or a stock character with that personality in traditional comedy; also describes a mischievous or unprincipled person
30. Second banana: a comic entertainer who supports a featured performer; in general usage, a subordinate
31. Stand-up: a comedian who performs in front of a live audience; also, an adjective describing such a performance (or referring in general to an upright position or person)
32. Top banana: a featured comic performer; in general informal usage, a leader
33. Wag: a clever person, especially someone who introduces a punning or otherwise playful expression
34. Wit: synonymous with wag, but also applies to people who easily come up with amusing comments
35. Zany: best known as an adjective synonymous with wacky, but also a noun denoting a person who acts foolishly to entertain others; in addition, was specific jargon for a acrobat or clown who spoofed the antics of the principal performer; also, in general usage, describes someone who is sycophantic or crazy

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1 Response to “Connotations of 35 Words for Funny People”

  • thebluebird11

    I must say that your word lists have really taken my Scrabble and WWF games to new heights! I have not been able to use “bufo” (as in the toad), but I am sure “buffo” would work LOL. Now to get a B, a U and 2 Fs at the same time…

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