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

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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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun An all-star lineup including dancers, aerialists and an emcee will perform during a 21-and-up burlesque show at Arlington Music Hall. Dallas News, "Things to do in Arlington: Chris Stapleton concert at new ballpark, ‘Bachelor’ finale watch party and more," 5 Mar. 2020 Grand opening at the Goethe-Institut Washington: The German cultural institute — and occasional home to such great one-off events as fire-dancing burlesque — is moving from its current location to one of the newest developments along 14th Street NW. Washington Post, "13 things to do in the D.C. area this week," 4 Nov. 2019 Alia Mohamed has appeared in Tarantina, an L.A. burlesque show inspired by the films of Quentin Tarantino, and has studied a variety of international dance styles. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, "Arab-futurism, belly dancers, drummers and paper sculptures — Teatro Dallas’ International Festival is back," 16 Jan. 2020 While not on the slopes, check out the festival’s burlesque shows, line-dancing workshop, and glacier tours of the Columbia Icefield. Miles Griffis, Outside Online, "The 2020 LGBTQ+ Ski Guide," 27 Nov. 2019 The main bar is open with no cover and festive cocktails featuring sparkling wine, while the upstairs Hex Bar offers BurlHex: A $50 party with a burlesque show and tarot readings. Washington Post, "The best free New Year’s Eve parties in the D.C. area," 17 Dec. 2019 Boogie Shoes, DJ JoJo and the Bloodello burlesque show are all at Koots for this spooky costume party. Robert Gant, Anchorage Daily News, "Celebrate Halloween all week with spooky and silly community events," 25 Oct. 2019 In addition to educational outreach, Actors Theater of Minnesota is known for bringing cabaret and burlesque shows, open mics and small-stage theater to Camp Bar. Liv Martin, Twin Cities, "Camp Bar keeps the humor happening with Laugh Camp on weekends," 4 Oct. 2019 Sayoc described himself online as a booker as well as a promoter for burlesque shows. CBS News, "Cesar Sayoc, package bomb suspect, is a Florida Trump supporter," 27 Oct. 2018

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

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

14 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Burlesque.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesque. Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for burlesque


How to pronounce burlesque (audio)

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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