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bur·​lesque (ˌ)bər-ˈlesk How to pronounce burlesque (audio)
literature : a literary or dramatic work that seeks to ridicule by means of grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation
a burlesque of Victorian society
: mockery usually by caricature
a writer whose burlesque often bordered on cruelty
: 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
burlesque adjective
burlesquely adverb


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burlesqued; burlesquing

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
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
Entertainment, including karaoke, live music, comedy and burlesque shows and more will occur every weekend. Haadiza Ogwude, The Enquirer, 3 Aug. 2023 Initially wary around each other, the two bond over Dan’s secret life as a cross-dressing burlesque performer, in this low-key but moving story about men finding a space to be themselves. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2023 Quotation, pastiche, burlesque and mashups are as old as the Book of Genesis. Hannibal Travis, The Conversation, 22 May 2023 Be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar for concerts and tours, and regular events like burlesque shows and drag brunches with bottomless mimosas. By sunset, Sunset Magazine, 1 Mar. 2023 Ypsilanti Friday, June 2, Ypsi Pride will feature two stages of live musical acts, burlesque and drag, dozens of vendors, community organizations, family programming and multiple after-party options. Duante Beddingfield, Detroit Free Press, 2 June 2023 Enter #SadMacron, a collection of images from February and March that the internet memefied, poking fun at the French president’s seeming burlesque of seriousness. Hazlitt, 12 May 2022 In this award-winning drama from Pakistani director Saim Sadiq, the youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family takes a job as a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque and quickly becomes infatuated with the trans woman who runs the show. Dallasnews.com Staff, Dallas News, 5 May 2023 Scream Along is the name by which Hough refers to his long-running burlesque of classic albums. James Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, 26 Apr. 2023
That song doesn’t belong in a film that promotes the era’s social fragmentation and repeats fatuous antagonisms — burlesqued by Melissa McCarthy playing the sea world’s villainous white-witch octopus Ursula. Armond White, National Review, 26 May 2023 The seeming callousness with which the dancers burlesque a fourteen-year-old’s death—the breezy way that the dance turns a killing into a sight gag—induces a shiver. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Dec. 2022 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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'burlesque.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use


1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1676, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of burlesque was in 1667

Dictionary Entries Near burlesque

Cite this Entry

“Burlesque.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesque. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
bur·​lesque (ˌ)bər-ˈlesk How to pronounce burlesque (audio)
: a written or dramatic work that makes fun of something by making it appear ridiculous
: theatrical entertainment consisting of comic skits and dance
burlesque adjective


2 of 2 verb
burlesqued; burlesquing
: to mock or make fun of through burlesque

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