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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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, 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, 10 June 2020 Chaste viewpoint Despite numerous depictions of beautiful courtesans and geisha entertainers, the Ainsworth collection is fairly chaste. Steven Litt, cleveland, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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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Cite this Entry

“Geisha.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of geisha

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

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