What’s the difference in usage between these three words?
Which of these would describe a typical American’s notion of a circus clown?
Does one of these words describe Japanese clowns?
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ピエロ and クラウン are almost interchangeable in Japan. I think ピエロ was more common than クラウン at least before Joker's movie. Since Japanese do not distinguish l and r, I imagine "crown" which is an ornament for the king more often than "clown" which is an actor in a circus. Maybe people see ピエロ juggling ball in a pachinko game setting.
However Halloween gets popular in Japan in this decade and a costume play is often influenced by movie, I am not so sure about how the term really used for younger generations.
道化師 is the most traditional one for a circus clown you imagine.