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.
4. fancifully varied in color, decoration, etc.: harlequin pants.
5. resembling a harlequin's mask: harlequin glasses.
1580–90; < F, MF ( h ) arlequin, semantically (and in part phonetically) < It arlecchino < MF, phonetically continuing OF *harlequin, halequin a malevolent spirit (Compare mesniee Hellequin a troop of demonic horsemen, lit., Hellequin's escort), prob. < ME *Herla king, OE *Her ( e ) la cyning King Herle, presumably a legendary figure, rendered in AL as Herla rex; cf. OHG Herilo a personal name, deriv. of heri armed forces