bur·​lesque | \(ˌ)bər-ˈlesk \

Definition of burlesque 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 literature : a literary or dramatic work that seeks to ridicule by means of grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation a burlesque of Victorian society

2 : mockery usually by caricature a writer whose burlesque often bordered on cruelty

3 : theatrical entertainment of a broadly humorous often earthy character consisting of short turns (see turn entry 2 sense 4d), comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts performers who got their start in burlesque


burlesqued; burlesquing

Definition of burlesque (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to imitate in a humorous or derisive manner : mock a work burlesquing Sherlock Holmes

intransitive verb

: to employ burlesque a temptation to burlesque

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Other Words from burlesque


burlesque adjective
burlesquely adverb


burlesquer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for burlesque


caricature, burlesque, parody, travesty mean a comic or grotesque imitation. caricature implies ludicrous exaggeration of the characteristic features of a subject. caricatures of politicians in cartoons burlesque implies mockery especially through giving a serious or lofty subject a frivolous treatment. a nightclub burlesque of a trial in court parody applies especially to treatment of a trivial or ludicrous subject in the exactly imitated style of a well-known author or work. a witty parody of a popular novel travesty implies that the subject remains unchanged but that the style is extravagant or absurd. this production is a travesty of the opera

Examples of burlesque in a Sentence


The book is a burlesque of Victorian society. a writer whose burlesque often bordered on cruelty Several important 20th-century performers got their start in burlesque.


burlesquing the teacher's nervous tic isn't very nice
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The History Besides the waves of Cubans that Union City has attracted over the years, earning it the nickname Havana on the Hudson, the city has also been home to Hudson County’s burlesque and vaudeville scene. New York Times, "Union City, N.J.: Close to the City, but Still Affordable," 9 May 2018 The Heathens takes a rock 'n' roll, B-movie culture approach to burlesque and eschews elaborate theatrical settings for irreverent, raucous gigs staged in bars. John Petkovic, cleveland.com, "Red Hot Heathens burlesque troupe celebrates 7th birthday at Richland Cafe," 27 Apr. 2018 The 2018 edition of the annual charity burlesque show Broadway Bares just got a little more star-studded. Keith Caulfield, Billboard, "Pentatonix's Kirstin Maldonado, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells & More Join Broadway Bares Charity Burlesque Show," 14 June 2018 In this burlesque drag show, Zeus can't resist the temptation of mortal women, which naturally, causes problems. Gabrielle Russon, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Review: 'LadyBoys of the Peekaboo Lounge' - Orlando Fringe 2018," 21 May 2018 This Valentine's Day, Dita Von Teese is showing us that burlesque isn't her only love. Natalie Maher, Billboard, "Dita Von Teese Premieres Dreamy Valentine's Day Single 'Porcelaine' Ahead of Debut Album: Exclusive," 14 Feb. 2018 The Body Political Team StarFox presents a burlesque and variety show exploring stories of the body as well as topics as gender, racial justice, age, weight/body type, mental health, sexuality and bodily autonomy. SFChronicle.com, "Theater capsule reviews and listings, week of June 24," 22 June 2018 After school, Stanfield wrote and directed skits on his aunt's camcorder, violent burlesques about a thug named Lil' Biggie trying to prove his manhood with a gun. Amy Nicholson, chicagotribune.com, "Is Hollywood ready for the brilliant weirdness of Lakeith Stanfield?," 3 July 2018 And there even was a final, extra layer of burlesque. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "The Only Way Paul Ryan Wins Is if Millions of Americans Lose," 20 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'burlesque.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of burlesque


1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1676, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for burlesque


burlesque, adjective, comic, droll, from French, from Italian burlesco, from burla joke, from Spanish


see burlesque entry 1

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Statistics for burlesque

Last Updated

25 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for burlesque

The first known use of burlesque was in 1667

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English Language Learners Definition of burlesque

: a play, story, novel, etc., that makes a serious subject seem funny or ridiculous

: a kind of entertainment that was popular in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that included funny performances, singing, dancing, etc., and sometimes performances in which women took off their clothes

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Comments on burlesque

What made you want to look up burlesque? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

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