(from the Spanish pícaro, a wily trickster);
the form of novel accurately described as ‘picaresque’ first appeared in 16th‐cent. Spain with the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1553) and Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache (1599–1604), which relate the histories of ingenious rogues, the servants of several masters, who eventually repent the error of their ways; examples of their descendants in English would be Moll Flanders, Roderick Random, and Tom Jones. The term was apparently first used in England in the 19th cent. Nowadays it is commonly, and loosely, applied to episodic novels, especially those of Fielding, Smollett, and others of the 18th cent. which describe the adventures of a lively and resourceful hero on a journey. The Golden Ass of Apuleius is regarded as a forerunner of the picaresque novel.