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 This is Sadaf Jafar, who stepped into the pretty decent-sized role of Bibbo, the maid who runs the home of the courtesan. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "How Mira Nair Made Her Own “Suitable Boy”," 7 Dec. 2020 Chaste viewpoint Despite numerous depictions of beautiful courtesans and geisha entertainers, the Ainsworth collection is fairly chaste. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Excellent Japanese print show at Allen Memorial Art Museum will be on extended view when Oberlin College reopens," 31 May 2020 Across millennia, sonically adventurous courtesans, slaves, monks, gang members, and other marginalized folks offended polite society before conquering it. The Atlantic, "The 15 Best Books of 2019," 24 Dec. 2019 In his famous years as a Hollywood courtesan, the movie captures the man as a welcome relief from the oppressive and conservative moral conduct of the industry. Los Angeles Times, "Scotty Bowers, sexual matchmaker in the golden age of Hollywood, dies," 16 Oct. 2019 By the 1930s, Wong had returned to the United States and worked alongside Dietrich as a self-sacrificing courtesan in Shanghai Express. Alexia Fernandez,, "Google Honors Chinese-American Movie Star Anna May Wong: All About Her Trailblazing Career," 22 Jan. 2020 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Courtesan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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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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