Etymology
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comedy (n.)

late 14c., "narrative with a happy ending; any composition intended for amusement," from Old French comedie (14c.), "a poem" (not in the theatrical sense) and directly from Latin comoedia, from Greek kōmōidia "a comedy, amusing spectacle," probably [Beekes] from kōmōidos "actor or singer in the revels," from kōmos "revel, carousal, merry-making, festival" + aoidos "singer, poet," from aeidein "to sing," which is related to ōidē (see ode).

The passage on the nature of comedy in the Poetic of Aristotle is unfortunately lost, but if we can trust stray hints on the subject, his definition of comedy (which applied mainly to Menander) ran parallel to that of tragedy, and described the art as a purification of certain affections of our nature, not by terror and pity, but by laughter and ridicule. [Rev. J.P. Mahaffy, "A History of Classical Greek Literature," London, 1895]

The origin of Greek komos is uncertain; perhaps it is from a PIE *komso- "praise," and cognate with Sanskrit samsa "praise, judgment." Beekes suggests Pre-Greek. The old derivation from kome "village" is not now regarded.

The classical sense of the word was "amusing play or performance with a happy ending," which is similar to the modern one, but in the Middle Ages the word meant poems and stories generally (albeit ones with happy endings), such as Dante's "Commedia." The revival of learning 16c. recovered the ancient comedies and shifted the sense of the word to "branch of drama addressing primarily the humorous and ridiculous" (opposed to tragedy). In 18c. this was somewhat restricted to "humorous, but not grossly comical, drama" (opposed to farce).

Comedy aims at entertaining by the fidelity with which it presents life as we know it, farce at raising laughter by the outrageous absurdity of the situation or characters exhibited, & burlesque at tickling the fancy of the audience by caricaturing plays or actors with whose style it is familiar. [Fowler]

Meaning "comic play or drama" is from 1550s (the first modern comedy in English was said to be Nicholas Udall's "Roister Doister"). Extended sense "humorous or comic incident or events in life" is from 1560s. Generalized sense of "quality of being amusing" dates from 1877. 

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musical (adj.)

early 15c., "pertaining to music;" mid-15c., "tuneful, harmonious;" late 15c., "adept at making music," from Medieval Latin musicalis, from Latin musica (see music).  Related: Musically. Musical box is from 1829. Children's or parlor game musical chairs is attested from 1862, hence use of musical as a modifier meaning "changing rapidly from one to another possessor" (1924).

Instrumental and vocal music, the quadrille and country-dance, occupy a portion of the time. No waltzing is however permitted. After dancing, round games follow, as Terza, "The Post," Musical Chairs, Cross Questions, all tending to amuse and promote exercise, until the partial extinguishing of the gas, at ten p.m., gives warning of approaching bedtime. [The Rev. R. Wodrow Thomson, "Ben Rhydding, the Asclepia of England," 1862]

In mid-19c. makers of musical boxes also advertised musical chairs, "playing beautiful tunes simply by the weight of the person sitting in them."

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musical (n.)

"film or theatrical piece (other than opera) in which music figures prominently," 1937, from musical (adj.) in musical play. Earlier as a noun it meant "musical instrument" (c. 1500), "musical performance" (1570s); "musical party" (1823, a sense now in musicale).

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tragi-comedy (n.)

also tragicomedy, "characterized by both serious and comic scenes," 1570s, from French tragicomédie (1540s), from Italian tragicommedia, from Late Latin tragicomoedia, contraction of tragicocomoedia (Plautus), from tragicus (see tragic) + comoedia (see comedy).

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black comedy (n.)

1961, "comedy that deals in themes and subjects usually regarded as serious or taboo," from black (adj.), in a figurative sense of "morbid," + comedy. Compare French pièce noire, also comédie noire "macabre or farcical rendering of a violent or tragic theme" (1958, perhaps the inspiration for the English term) and 19th-century gallows-humor. In a racial sense, from 1921.

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commedia dell'arte (n.)

"improvised popular comedy involving stock characters," 1823, Italian, literally "comedy of art;" see comedy + art (n.).

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comedic (adj.)

"pertaining to or of the nature of comedy," 1630s, from comedy + -ic, or else from Latin comoedicus, from Greek komoidikos "pertaining to comedy," from komoidia. Comedical is from 1610s. Related: Comedically.

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comic (adj.)

late 14c., "of comedy in the classical sense, pertaining to comedy as distinct from tragedy," from Latin comicus "of comedy, represented in comedy, in comic style," from Greek komikos "of or pertaining to comedy," from komos (see comedy). Meaning "intentionally funny, raising mirth" is first recorded 1791, and comedic (1630s) has since picked up the older sense of the word.

Speaking of the masters of the comedic spirit (if I call it, as he does, the Comic Spirit, this darkened generation will suppose me to refer to the animal spirits of tomfools and merryandrews) .... [G.B. Shaw, 1897]

Something that is comic has comedy as its aim or origin; something is comical if the effect is comedy, whether intended or not. Comic relief is attested from 1817. 

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comical (adj.)

1550s, "of or pertaining to comedy," from comic (or Latin comicus) + -al (1). Meaning "funny, exciting mirth" is from 1680s. Also sometimes in 17c. "befitting comedy, low, ignoble." Related: Comicality; comicalness.

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tragi-comic (adj.)

"both serious and tragic," 1680s; see tragi-comedy + -ic. Related: Tragi-comical (1560s).

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