In Roman theater, a term for clown was fossor, literally "digger; labourer". 1560 (as clowne, cloyne) in the generic meaning "rustic, boor, peasant".The origin of the word is uncertain, perhaps from a Scandinavian word cognate with clumsy.It is in this sense that "Clown" is used as the name of fool characters in Shakespeare's Othello and The Winter's Tale.
The harlequinade developed in England in the 17th century, inspired by the commedia dell'arte.
It was here that "Clown" came into use as the given name of a stock character.
Some writers have argued that due to the widespread use of such comedy and its long history it is a need that is part of the human condition.
The "fear of clowns," circus clowns in particular as a psychiatric condition has become known by the term coulrophobia.
The Bozo Show premiered in 1960 and was received nationally via cable television from 1978.
The Mc Donald's fast-food restaurant chain derived its mascot clown Ronald Mc Donald from the Bozo character in the 1960s.
Clowns of America International (established 1984) and World Clown Association (established 1987) are associations of semi-professionals and professional performers.
The shift of the Auguste or "red clown" character from his role as a foil for the white in circus or pantomime shows to a Bozo-derived standalone character in children's entertainment by the 1980s also gave rise to the evil clown character, the attraction of clowns for small children being based in their fundamentally threatening or frightening nature.
Clowns have a varied tradition with significant variations in costume and performance.