bur·​lesque | \ (ˌ)bər-ˈlesk How to pronounce burlesque (audio) \

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

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

Noun 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. Verb burlesquing the teacher's nervous tic isn't very nice
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Chlöe’s detractors found the bump and grind of her choreography, reminiscent of Black burlesque, anywhere from concerning to downright disrespectful. Allure, 13 May 2022 This burlesque of rotten movies and overwrought acting excuses bad choices and lack of control through the dubious notion that audiences are superior to it all. Armond White, National Review, 22 Apr. 2022 Dollar bills flew and tassels twirled Friday, March 11, 2022, as The French Connection burlesque and variety show took the stage at the White Rabbit. Michelle Pemberton, The Indianapolis Star, 21 Apr. 2022 Their junior-high burlesque is a sight gag as well as the heart of the series; more literally than most teen pariahs, Maya and Anna have trouble fitting in. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2021 But many of the most splendid creations seen here are for drag and burlesque — gloves designed to be worn and then, finger by finger, flirtatiously removed. New York Times, 12 Aug. 2021 But the brilliant thing about online burlesque, Higgs told me, was that there was no bar. Madison Moore, The Atlantic, 26 July 2021 Reynolds points out that the shows displayed genuine pathos and nobility in addition to racist burlesque. Sean Wilentz, The New York Review of Books, 13 Apr. 2021 Trixie Minx’s holiday burlesque features a mix of naughty and nice acts as well as her risqué dreidel routine and a stripping Santa. NOLA.com, 21 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Similar to past years, the festival will feature a variety of performances ranging from singers to storytellers, magic to mind reading and belly dancing to burlesque. Kathy Cichon, chicagotribune.com, 27 Aug. 2020 See More

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.

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

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for burlesque

Time Traveler

The first known use of burlesque was in 1667

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Statistics for burlesque

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Burlesque.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesque. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on burlesque

Nglish: Translation of burlesque for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about burlesque


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