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

Asians were shown geishas as their look-alikes, and an Indian-American reporter was served a portrait of a Native American chief. Alyssa Newcomb, Fortune, "ImageNet Roulette Highlights Bias in A.I. See For Yourself," 17 Sep. 2019 These include: white models wearing turbans for Gucci, a fashion shoot for Vogue where model Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha, and designer Marc Jacobs dressing its models in dreadlocks for a fashion week show in 2016. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "Dior thought a ‘Sauvage’ perfume ad with Native Americans was a good idea. Not everyone agreed.," 30 Aug. 2019 The same team is behind the new Trunk House, a mid-century former geisha house in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka neighborhood (dubbed Little Kyoto for its ancient shrines, temples, and parks) that's been turned into a small hotel set to open this August. Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Hottest New Hotel Openings of Summer 2019," 9 July 2019 Tsai traces a lineage directly from geisha to social media stars. Khanh T.l. Tran,, "She gave up everything to start beauty brand Tatcha. What happens after it’s sold?," 8 July 2019 Then enjoy lunch with a maiko, or apprentice geisha, and learn about her ancient arts. National Geographic, "Japan: Hiking and Cultural Adventure," 12 June 2019 But Fashion Nova isn’t the only company selling geisha costumes. Mekita Rivas, Allure, "Fashion Nova's "Sexy" Geisha Costume Is Everything Not to Wear on Halloween This Year," 3 Oct. 2018 But Fashion Nova isn’t the only company selling geisha costumes. Mekita Rivas, Allure, "Fashion Nova's "Sexy" Geisha Costume Is Everything Not to Wear on Halloween This Year," 3 Oct. 2018 Vicky Tsai, a 40-year-old former financier, started Tatcha LLC nearly a decade ago after she was introduced to centuries-old beauty customs used by Japan’s geisha that cleared up her own skin problems. Jaewon Kang, WSJ, "Geisha Effect: Asian Skin Care Shakes Up the U.S. Beauty Market," 29 Jan. 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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Geissler bulb

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Last Updated

29 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for geisha

The first known use of geisha was in 1881

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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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