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

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 It’s a risqué comedy drama based on the memoirs of real-life 19th-century British courtesan Harriette Wilson. San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 May 2022 Sandra Yi Sencindiver joins as Enjoiner Rue, a former courtesan who became the politically savvy consigliere to Queen Sareth. Nick Romano,, 1 Feb. 2022 How funny to picture Mangeshkar—sustaining her soft but commanding soprano as a Mughal Empire-era courtesan, defiantly declaring her love for a royal—mere feet away from a toilet. Mayukh Sen, The New Yorker, 13 Feb. 2022 In that scene, a courtesan challenges an emperor in court by declaring her love for a prince. New York Times, 5 Feb. 2022 Sencindiver plays Enjoiner Rue, a politically savvy former courtesan to Cleon the 16th who now serves as consigliere to Queen Sareth of Cloud Dominion, played by Smith, who charms her way into the Imperial Palace while on a secret quest for revenge. Selome Hailu, Variety, 1 Feb. 2022 The fact that Vigée Le Brun painted Madame du Barry several times suggests how much the former courtesan’s reputation had changed, because Vigée Le Brun was the official painter of Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry’s former nemesis. Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2021 But devising the piece, and then re-imagining it for the Broadway stage production, was initially a feat as seemingly foolhardy as romancing a courtesan. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 28 May 2021 Pacific Symphony presents a semi-staged version of Verdi’s tragic drama about a Parisian courtesan dying of consumption. Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of courtesan was in 1533

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Courtesan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on courtesan

Nglish: Translation of courtesan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of courtesan for Arabic Speakers


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