gei·​sha | \ ˈgā-shə How to pronounce geisha (audio) also ˈgē- \
plural geisha or geishas

Definition of geisha

: a Japanese girl or woman who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company especially for a man or a group of men

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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.

Examples of geisha in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Katy Perry dressed up like a geisha, Karlie Kloss donned a Native American headdress and Marc Jacobs came under fire for having his white models wear dreadlocks. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, "'Bring It On' turns 20: Brr, it's cold in here! The 20 best lines for the movie's anniversary," 25 Aug. 2020 These often poignant missives are balanced by correspondence already in the public record between Yamamoto, who was married with children, and his longtime mistress, who was a geisha. David Holahan, USA TODAY, "Review: Dick Lehr's 'Dead Reckoning' recreates thrilling WWII mission to get Isoroku Yamamoto," 10 June 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 Two stories photographed by Jodi Cobb, the third woman photographer hired on staff—Saudi women (October 1987) and Japanese geisha (October 1995)—could never have been done by a man. Cathy Newman, National Geographic, "The world through the eyes of women," 15 Nov. 2019 The Metropolitan Opera streams its 2009 staging of Puccini’s tale of the tragic romance between a Japanese geisha and an American naval officer. Matt Cooper, Los Angeles Times, "25 years of Disney musicals on Broadway: Your quarantine must-watch of the day," 17 Apr. 2020 Trunk House - Tokyo, Japan This serene courtyard view is a pleasure at the Trunk House, a 70-year-old geisha house turned boutique hotel. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, "Hotels Around the World Share the View From Their Windows for Everyone Stuck at Home," 5 Apr. 2020 The latest project, Trunk (House), which opened in August, is a converted geisha training house in the Kagurazaka neighborhood. Shana Clarke, Fortune, "Japan’s biggest wedding company wants to revamp the hotel business," 22 Jan. 2020 These ornaments are still worn today by women dressed in kimonos for special occasions, or for work such as geisha and traditional performers. Washington Post, "Easy-to-make flowers for traditional Japanese hair ornaments," 11 Dec. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of geisha

1881, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for geisha

Japanese, from gei art + -sha person

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Time Traveler for geisha

Time Traveler

The first known use of geisha was in 1881

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Statistics for geisha

Last Updated

6 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Geisha.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Oct. 2020.

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How to pronounce geisha (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of geisha

: a Japanese girl who is trained to entertain men with singing, conversation, etc.

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