Word of the Day


audio pronunciation
May 08, 2013
: a woman who is a skilled and usually professional reciter
"I say 'chanteuse' but this is by courtesy, for she was more of a diseuse to begin with, speaking her songs…." — From Paul Johnson's 2010 book Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward

"At Jurowski's insistence, the cast represented a spectrum of singers from opera to cabaret. So coloratura soprano and contemporary music singer Alison Bell, slinky cabaret diseuse Meow Meow, and bel canto soprano Gabriela Istoc were the women fighting for the affections of Mark Padmore's brutally charismatic Macheath." — From a theater review by Tim Ashley in The Guardian (London), March 4, 2013
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Did You Know?
The American actress Ruth Draper (1884-1956) was known for her character-driven monologues and theatrical sketches, portraying some 58 different characters utilizing a range of languages and dialects. A comparable entertainer today might be labeled a performance artist, but a term that emerged during Draper's lifetime was "diseuse." Broadly, a diseuse is a professional female reciter, though often the word is used specifically to refer to one who recites verse or other text to music. (A male reciter would be a diseur, but that word is rare in English.) Both "diseuse" and "diseur" derive from Old French "dire" ("to say") and ultimately from the Latin verb "dicere."

Word Family Quiz: What relative of "diseuse" is used to refer to a thing mentioned previously and is often symbolized by inverted commas or apostrophes to save space? The answer is …
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