from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of or involving clever rogues or adventurers.
  • adjective Of or relating to a genre of usually satiric prose fiction originating in Spain and depicting in realistic, often humorous detail the adventures of a roguish hero of low social degree living by his or her wits in a corrupt society.
  • noun One that is picaresque.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Pertaining to or dealing with rogues or picaroons: said of literary productions that deal with the fortunes of rogues or adventurers, and especially of works in Spanish literature about the beginning of the seventeenth century, of which “Guzman de Alfarache” was a type.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Applied to that class of literature in which the principal personage is the Spanish picaro, meaning a rascal, a knave, a rogue, an adventurer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Of or pertaining to rogues or adventurers
  • adjective literature Characteristic of a genre of Spanish satiric novel dealing with the adventures of a roguish hero
  • noun A picaresque novel.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective involving clever rogues or adventurers especially as in a type of fiction


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French, from Spanish picaresco, from pícaro, picaro; see picaro.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

French, from Spanish picaresco, from pícaro ("rogue").


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  • At the moment, she is writing "another book, which seems to be coming as a succession of chapters that feel like stories", and which she refers to as the picaresque life story of a spiky, bold girl.

    Tessa Hadley: A life in writing 2011

  • Whilst the picaresque is certainly an excellent example of episodic narrative, it isn’t its only manifestation.

    What’s The Fuss About Episodic Fiction? « Tales from the Reading Room 2009

  • Daniel Green has suggested that the picaresque is a form that has nearly been lost to contemporary fiction writers, and that we might be able to broaden our sense of what is or isn't a viable story if more writers were to experiment with it.

    Archive 2004-07-01 2004

  • They belonged mostly to that class of realistic fiction which is called picaresque, from the Spanish word 'picaro,' a rogue, because it began in Spain with the 'Lazarillo de Tormes' of Diego de

    A History of English Literature Robert Huntington Fletcher

  • A genre of literature known as the picaresque novel is generally credited as having arisen in Spain with an anonymous 16th-century work entitled "Lazarillo de Tormes."

    The Seattle Times 2012

  • Although Baxter and Mattison don't use the word, what they are both describing is the influence on early novels in English of the "picaresque" narrative.

    Narrative Strategies 2009

  • These comprise a kind of picaresque tale of Jack's philandering, selfish, funny life, accompanied by such supporting fables as the Pathetic Fallacy (now going by the name "Gary") and the Queen of Fortune.

    Boing Boing 2007

  • Emperor Charles V., an accomplished soldier and a learned historian -- such was the creator of the hungry rogue Lazarillo, and the founder of the "picaresque" school of fiction, or the romance of roguery, which is not yet extinct.

    The World's Greatest Books — Volume 06 — Fiction Various 1909

  • Stevenson and Kipling have proved its immense popularity, with the whole brood of detective stories and the tales of successful rascality we call "picaresque" Our most popular weekly shows the broad appeal of this class of fiction.

    The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1897

  • Even regarded as an early attempt in the "picaresque" manner, it is abortive and only half organised.

    The English Novel George Saintsbury 1889


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  • Also the name of an excellent album by The Decemberists.

    November 22, 2007