cour·​te·​san | \ ˈkȯr-tə-zən How to pronounce courtesan (audio) , -ˌzan also ˈkər-, -ˌzän; especially British ˌkȯ-tə-ˈzan \

Definition of courtesan

: a prostitute with a courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele

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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 And the final scene’s embrace of sincerity — a parade of poignant photo posts of Violetta and her lover, Alfredo — was puzzling after Mr. Stone’s initially cleareyed portrayal of this classic courtesan as a slave to the attention economy. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "An 18th-Century Opera, Supercharged for Our Time," 14 Oct. 2019 Her Lady Nijo was an intriguing ancient Japanese courtesan, while Win was a breezily modern office worker. Matthew J. Palm,, "Orlando Theater Best of 2019: Featured Actress, Comedy," 11 Dec. 2019 In 1890s France a courtesan falls in love with a young writer but strings along a duke who can finance improvements to the night spot. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV for Oct. 6-12: ‘Throne of Blood’ and more," 4 Oct. 2019 Along with 13 pairs of courtesan-like heel-less shoes, including ones Tatehana created for Lady Gaga, are sculptural geisha-style hairpins and samurai sword blades. oregonlive, "Portland Japanese Garden draws crowds with fall colors and Lady Gaga’s shoes," 6 Oct. 2019 Tveit plays the lovesick writer Christian, who falls for the club's leading lady and courtesan Satine, played by Tony Award winner Karen Olivo, and the actors are just as excited as everyone else that the musical has finally arrived. Suzy Evans, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Moulin Rouge!' Stars Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo Go Deeper and Darker on Stage," 1 July 2019 The story of the lascivious Duke, who preys on dying courtesan-entertainer Satine, who in turn falls for starving writer-artist Christian, is the lowbrow framework on which the film suspended its anachronistic pop score. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "Will you love ‘Moulin Rouge!’ as a stage musical? Well, you’ll certainly fall in like.," 25 July 2019 In the film, Kidman portrays Satine, the courtesan and star of the famed Moulin Rouge cabaret in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Christian Holub,, "Nicole Kidman pays visit to Moulin Rouge! on Broadway," 10 Aug. 2019 New Orleans East enigma Library shelves sag with stories that New Orleans likes to tell about itself: pirates and courtesans, voodoo rituals and parlor parties. Lynell George, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Sarah M. Broom shows her New Orleans in ‘The Yellow House’," 9 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'courtesan.' 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 courtesan

1533, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for courtesan

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

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Time Traveler for courtesan

Time Traveler

The first known use of courtesan was in 1533

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Statistics for courtesan

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Courtesan.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for courtesan


How to pronounce courtesan (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of courtesan

old-fashioned : a woman who has sex with rich or important men in exchange for money : a prostitute who has sex with wealthy and powerful men

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Comments on courtesan

What made you want to look up courtesan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express in a more acceptable way

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