cour·​te·​san ˈkȯr-tə-zən How to pronounce courtesan (audio)
 also  ˈkər-,
 especially British  ˌkȯ-tə-ˈzan
: a prostitute with a courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele

Examples of courtesan in a Sentence

the protagonist of the novel is a composite of several real-life courtesans who plied their trade among the decadent aristocracy
Recent Examples on the Web Elisa has recently been orphaned for a second time by the death of her guardian, Rosaria, a minor courtesan who took her in after her parents’ untimely deaths. Jess Bergman, The New Yorker, 8 Nov. 2023 The show by playwright Kate Hammill is a risqué comedic drama loosely based on the life and tell-all memoirs of the 19th century’s most famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson, also known as The Little Fellow. San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Oct. 2023 Its image of a Paris courtesan, with tungsten-white skin and a level gaze, stretched out on her bed and approached by a Black female attendant bearing flowers, punched many a hot button — social, aesthetic and ethical — in French bourgeois culture. Holland Cotter, New York Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Hamill will co-star with her real-life husband, actor Jason O’Connell, in the risqué comedy drama based on the memoirs of real-life 19th-century British courtesan Harriette Wilson. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Sep. 2023 Drawing inspiration from the time that former king Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson spent in Portugal and the real-life French courtesan with whom the Duke most likely had an affair, Wells unwinds a globe-trotting tale of romance and mystery wrapped in historical detail. Carol Memmott, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2023 This is the story of a lonely, widowed businessman, a courtesan, 1700s London, and a mermaid. Teresa M. Hanafin,, 4 June 2023 By her early 20s, Bernhardt—the daughter of a Dutch Jewish courtesan—had realized her passion for performing. Teresa Nowakowski, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 May 2023 Mäiwenn plays Jeanne Vaubernier, a working-class woman who became the last official courtesan of French King Louis XV, played by Johnny Depp. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'courtesan.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French courtisane, from northern Italian dialect form of Italian cortigiana woman courtier, feminine of cortigiano courtier, from corte court, from Latin cohort-, cohors — see court entry 1

First Known Use

1533, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of courtesan was in 1533

Dictionary Entries Near courtesan

Cite this Entry

“Courtesan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

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