soi·​ree | \ swä-ˈrā How to pronounce soiree (audio) \
variants: or soirée

Definition of soiree

: 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
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Recent Examples on the Web As part of the send-off, the museum hosts an after-hours soiree celebrating the food of the cultures found along the road. Washington Post, "16 things to do in the D.C. area this weekend," 20 Feb. 2020 Several hundred film lovers, directors, producers and others descended upon The Woodlands Events Center Thursday night, Feb. 13, for the opening VIP soiree of the fourth annual Inspire Film Festival. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Wild fashions, homemade dresses wow crowd at Inspire Film Festival," 14 Feb. 2020 An effervescent cocktail of electric sounds and eclectic soirees. Briana Rice,, "Ghost Baby: Here's what you should know about Over-the-Rhine's new underground bar," 6 Mar. 2020 Gala-goers often reach for pink or red dresses and romantic accessories, and last Saturday's soiree -- held on Feb. 15 at Hilton Americas-Houston -- was no exception. Amber Elliott, Houston Chronicle, "An Ashley Longshore original painting, New York Fashion Week trip help Heart Ball raise $2.3 million," 18 Feb. 2020 Attendees to the social media soiree will be treated to an inside look at the English country estate that serves as the main location for Downton Abbey. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "The Real Downton Abbey Owners Are Hosting Another Virtual Cocktail Hour… Tomorrow!," 30 Apr. 2020 The free tickets include one Hurricane cocktail, muffuletta and red beans and rice — and the chance to buy discounted tickets for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Mardi Gras soiree. Washington Post, "12 things to do in the D.C. area this week," 6 Jan. 2020 But when the 27th annual soiree finally started, the Marry Mates hit the ground running. al, "Marry Mates invite the Masked Observer into the family," 21 Feb. 2020 Eighteen-year-old Billie Eilish and her brother-producer-pianist Finneas walked arm-in-arm into the same side of the soiree minutes later. Washington Post, "Oscar parties: Pitt goes right in, Phoenix engraves-and-runs," 10 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'soiree.' 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 soiree

1793, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for soiree

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

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Time Traveler for soiree

Time Traveler

The first known use of soiree was in 1793

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Statistics for soiree

Last Updated

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Soiree.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for soiree


How to pronounce soiree (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of soiree

: a formal party that is usually at night

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More from Merriam-Webster on soiree

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for soiree

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with soiree Encyclopedia article about soiree

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