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 The Wolf of Wall Street is a burlesque of American male greed. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "The Irishman May Seem Like a Movie About Old White Men. It's So Much More," 31 Oct. 2019 Tiki burlesque with Camelia Bay Burlesque starts at 8 p.m. at OK Bicycle Shop. al, "Dauphin Street goes exotic for Mobile Tiki Week," 12 Aug. 2019 This is mostly a retro kind of downtown entertainment blending the European circus, Weimar cabaret, Parisian burlesque and a few excursions into vaudeville. chicagotribune.com, "The top 8 recommended Chicago shows to see now," 21 July 2019 At least, that was the case forKaia Gerber, who rang in her 18th birthday and the start of New York Fashion Week with a burlesque-themed party at the Paradise Club in Times Square last night. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Kaia Gerber's 18th Birthday Party Outfit Was a Nod to Her Mom Cindy Crawford," 7 Sep. 2019 Jugglers, stilt-walkers and burlesque-like human earthworms will show off their talents at the corner of Dale Street and LaFond Avenue from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 7 to call attention to the impacts of a changing climate on low-income communities. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Sustainability Circus comes to St. Paul’s Frogtown Sept. 7," 16 Aug. 2019 The burlesque troupe, co-founded by Shero in 2014, is a plus-size, body-positive alternative to the flat-stomached burlesque that Shero said pervades late-night circles. Nicole Blackwood, chicagotribune.com, "Plus-size burlesque troupe The Femme FATales is serving ‘fat liberation on a silver platter’," 1 July 2019 Enjoy beer from Lagunitas and other local breweries, as well as live music, burlesque, aerialists and more. Lisa Herendeen, The Mercury News, "22 spectacular California wine, beer and cocktail events in September alone," 25 Aug. 2019 Also on the agenda is an 18-and-older Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure-themed burlesque show, not to be confused with the old Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure that ran at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights through 2017. Trevor Fraser, orlandosentinel.com, "New horror festival Fantasm heading for October opening in Orlando," 9 Aug. 2019

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

22 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Burlesque.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesqued. Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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