soi·​ree swä-ˈrā How to pronounce soiree (audio)
variants or soirée
: a party or reception held in the evening

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Soiree: A Fancy Evening Party

In English, soiree means “a fancy evening affair.” The word comes directly from French and was formed from the word soir, meaning “evening” or “night.” The French make a subtle distinction between soir, which refers explicitly to the time of day following sunset, and soirée, which refers to some duration of time, usually translated as “evening.” English speakers don’t use different words, but we understand the difference between “I’ll see you tomorrow evening” and “We spent the evening playing cards”—one refers to a time of day and one refers to the passage of time. From the idea of a period of time evolved the second meaning of soirée: a party that takes place during the evening. As is typical for words that have been borrowed from modern French, soiree in English signifies the fancy version of a simple “party”: an evening event that is formal or refined in some way.

A third sense of soirée in French, “an evening performance,” has a parallel with matinée, from matin “morning. ” Matinée literally means “morning performance” in French but has come to mean “daytime or afternoon performance” in English. The “evening performance” meaning of soirée has not been adopted by English. Our Unabridged of 1934, however, did record both a verb soiree (meaning, presumably, “to hold or attend an evening party”) and the variant swarry, “so spelled in mimicry of mispronunciation.”

Soiree can be spelled in English using the acute accent as soirée, but is usually spelled without it.

Examples of soiree in a Sentence

After the interview she took me to a coffee-and-cake soiree at a wealthy student's house. Thomas Keneally, The Tyrant's Novel, 2004
Ostensible grownups can be reduced to screaming toddlers over who gets the credit for bringing in a major donor's gift—and thus gets the inside track for a better seat at the next big soirée. Bring into this piranha tank an attractive, ambitious, wealthy woman who made an almost instant connection with the President and his wife, and the knives start flashing. Viveca Novak, Time, 14 June 1999
Mariah Carey's voyage into pop stardom begins on a fateful Friday evening in 1988 when she and dance songbird Brenda K. Starr—for whom Carey was a background singer—attend a music industry soiree. Larry Flick, CD Review, December 1994
a fashionable soiree at a fancy hotel
Recent Examples on the Web While the atmosphere will be lively on June 28 with food trucks and live music, Cerebral is planning a larger grand opening soiree for later this summer. Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post, 12 June 2024 The result is a contemporary boutique property with a touch of nostalgia, nodding to a time when the mansion halls still hosted fanciful dinner parties and soirees. Michaela Trimble, Vogue, 2 May 2024 One memorable example of Figes’s talent for uncovering fascinating vignettes is his account of a soiree at the Viardots’ house in 1860, where Pauline and Wagner gave the first performance of the famous love duet from the second act of Tristan und Isolde, Wagner’s great epic of love and death. Jerrold Seigel, Foreign Affairs, 11 Aug. 2020 You’re invited to the soiree of the century: a new musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s classic novel. David Catlin, The Enquirer, 2 Aug. 2018 See all Example Sentences for soiree 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'soiree.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French soirée evening period, evening party, from Middle French, from soir evening, from Latin sero at a late hour, from serus late; akin to Old Irish sír long, lasting and perhaps to Old English sīth late — more at since

First Known Use

1793, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of soiree was in 1793

Dictionary Entries Near soiree

Cite this Entry

“Soiree.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants or soirée
: an evening party or social gathering

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