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 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 My empty, end-of-the-year brain was well served by the burlesque of selfish viscounts, conniving ladies of the house, and enterprising modistes. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2020 Spaces like The AllWays Lounge & Cabaret have been cornerstones for the local burlesque and drag community. Sarah Ravits, NOLA.com, 14 Sep. 2020 In Trumpworld, however, any acknowledgment of historical patterns can express itself only as a burlesque. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, 12 June 2020 Prohibition, known as both a restaurant/lounge and the presenter of burlesque and cabaret shows (in the former 1930s Isis Theater), will continue to present shows. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, 29 Dec. 2019 The show, an annual juried exhibition of erotic art, also includes burlesque and boylesque performers, erotic films, live performances, bars and food vendors. Greg Crawford, Detroit Free Press, 5 Feb. 2020 Come on a Wednesday for live music, Thursdays for burlesque and Fridays for cabaret. Audrey Gorden, RedEye Chicago, 8 Sep. 2017 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

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

24 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Burlesque.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesque. Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for burlesque



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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