gei·​sha ˈgā-shə How to pronounce geisha (audio)
 also  ˈgē-
plural geisha or geishas
: a Japanese girl or woman who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company especially for a man or a group of men

Did you know?

In Japan, a geisha is a member of a professional class of women whose occupation is to entertain men. She must be adept at singing, dancing, and playing the samisen (a three-stringed musical instrument), in addition to being skilled at making conversation. The geisha system is thought to have emerged in the 17th century to provide a class of well-trained entertainers set apart from courtesans and prostitutes: though geisha sometimes had sexual relationships with clients, they were supposed to entertain primarily through their accomplishments. The numbers of geisha have declined from some 80,000 in the 1920s to a few thousand at present, almost all confined to Tokyo and Kyoto, where they are patronized by only the wealthiest businessmen and most influential politicians.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Adapted from Arthur Golden’s novel, the story begins in the late 1920s, with Yeoh as Mameha, a fierce matriarch who schools her young protégé, Chiyo (again Zhang Ziyi) in the ways of serving as a geisha. Dan Heching, CNN, 10 Mar. 2023 Examples of this include Victoria’s Secret models donning Native American headdresses on the runway and Katy Perry dressing up as a geisha for a performance at the American Music Awards. Time, 12 Jan. 2023 Moore, who sings big Verdi roles, isn’t easy to imagine as the ingenuous geisha (who’s supposed to be only 15 years old). Dallas News, 19 Feb. 2022 Princess Gabriella was dressed as a geisha, while Prince Jacques was captured in formal attire. Peter Mikelbank, Peoplemag, 10 Dec. 2022 The sneak-peak images give fans a glimpse at Kore-eda’s original take on the rarified world of the Japanese geisha. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Oct. 2022 This epic follows the life of Chiyo Sakamoto, from her poor beginnings to her successful career as a geisha, and the several setbacks and heartbreaks in between. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, 30 June 2022 After rigorous years of training, Chiyo becomes Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang), a geisha of incredible beauty and influence. Travis Bean, Forbes, 25 June 2022 Using the geisha as a metaphor for the hypersexualization of East Asian women, the photos follow the metamorphosis of a young girl from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. CNN, 7 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'geisha.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Japanese, from gei art + -sha person

First Known Use

1881, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of geisha was in 1881

Dictionary Entries Near geisha

Cite this Entry

“Geisha.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


gei·​sha ˈgā-shə How to pronounce geisha (audio)
plural geisha or geishas
: a Japanese woman who is trained to provide entertaining company for men

Japanese, from gei "art" and -sha "person"

More from Merriam-Webster on geisha

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