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A Word A Day — scaramouch

August 10, 2012

Word of the Day

  • scaramouch
  • audio pronunciation
  • \SKAIR-uh-moosh\


a : a cowardly buffoon b : rascal, scamp

Dorothy was wary about lending money to her uncle, a scaramouch who never took responsibility for his actions.

"The mischievous Scaramouche dances beneath them, flanked by a chorus of provocatively clad statues that seem poised to descend from their pedestals…." — From Caroline Van Eck and Stijn Bussels' 2011 book Theatricality in Early Modern Art and Architecture


In the commedia dell'arte, Scaramouch was a stock character who was constantly being cudgeled by Harlequin, which may explain why his name is based on an Italian word meaning "skirmish," or "a minor fight." The character was made popular in England during the late 1600s by the clever acting of Tiberio Fiurelli. During that time, the name "Scaramouch" also gained notoriety as a derogatory word for "a cowardly buffoon" or "rascal." Today not many people use the word (which can also be spelled "scaramouche"), but you will encounter it while listening to Queen's ubiquitous rock song "Bohemian Rhapsody," in the lyric "I see a little silhouetto of a man / Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?"

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.