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trav·​es·​ty ˈtra-və-stē How to pronounce travesty (audio)
plural travesties
: a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation
a travesty of justice
: a burlesque translation or literary or artistic imitation usually grotesquely incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter


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travestied; travestying

transitive verb

: to make a travesty of : parody

Did you know?

When disaster strikes, keeping track of which word to use seems pretty unimportant. But you don’t want to describe disastrous events as travesties, because they’re not: they’re tragedies. Travesties are terrible too, but travesty refers specifically to something that is done in a way that makes a mockery of what it’s supposed to be: for example, a contest won by the judge’s spouse could be considered a travesty. And a trial in which the defendant wasn’t allowed to present evidence could be described as a “travesty of justice.” Travesty, which can also function as a verb meaning “to make a travesty of” or “to parody,” comes from the French verb travestir, meaning “to disguise.” Its roots, however, wind back through Italian to the Latin verb vestire, meaning “to clothe” or “to dress.” Other descendants of vestire include vestment, divest, and invest.

Choose the Right Synonym for travesty

caricature, burlesque, parody, travesty mean a comic or grotesque imitation.

caricature implies ludicrous exaggeration of the characteristic features of a subject.

caricatures of politicians in cartoons

burlesque implies mockery especially through giving a serious or lofty subject a frivolous treatment.

a nightclub burlesque of a trial in court

parody applies especially to treatment of a trivial or ludicrous subject in the exactly imitated style of a well-known author or work.

a witty parody of a popular novel

travesty implies that the subject remains unchanged but that the style is extravagant or absurd.

this production is a travesty of the opera

Examples of travesty in a Sentence

Noun It is a travesty and a tragedy that so many people would be denied the right to vote. The trial was a travesty of justice. Verb this comedy sketch mindlessly travesties the hard work of relief workers around the world
Recent Examples on the Web
Smoked turkey, so often done wrong, can be a travesty at even the finest barbecue spots. Kayla Stewart, Bon Appétit, 23 Feb. 2024 Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a travesty that has cost unnecessary lives. Luke McGee, CNN, 22 Feb. 2024 That a new chart-topping Israeli trap song that calls for the destruction of Gaza is a travesty and should be taken off the internet. Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, 11 Feb. 2024 Madeleine’s role in The Bitter Tears of Marie Antoinette, filmed at a guillotine, suggests how corporate media’s travesty of J6 show trials on network TV put us through a modern version of the French Revolution’s Jacobin Terror. Armond White, National Review, 26 Jan. 2024 Some people consider flashing by proxy a travesty, for example, while others guiltlessly partake in crafty schemes such as one that recently sent a player trudging to the top of the Eiffel Tower with a backpack full of other people’s phones. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, 11 Dec. 2023 But the playoffs involve only a relative handful of games, resulting in a travesty. Steve Forbes, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Because that would be the biggest travesty of it all. Jeff Gage, Rolling Stone, 15 Sep. 2023 What has taken place here is a travesty of justice. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 27 Aug. 2023
In 1933, the Marx Brothers mocked dictatorship with Duck Soup; three decades later, Kubrick and writer Terry Southern travestied the Bomb. The New Republic, 22 June 2023 Readers may be tempted to side at one moment with the defenders of Jewish caution and Jewish sentiment, however their instincts are travestied, and soon afterward with Zuckerman’s principled view of the autonomy of art. Cynthia Ozick, WSJ, 25 May 2018 Are miracle and faith being slyly travestied, or is this just another example of the going secular self-help usage? Elaine Blair, New York Times, 18 May 2018 See More

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

Word History



obsolete English travesty disguised, parodied, from French travesti, past participle of travestir to disguise, from Italian travestire, from tra- across (from Latin trans-) + vestire to dress, from Latin — more at vest entry 2

First Known Use


circa 1668, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1667, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of travesty was in 1667


Dictionary Entries Near travesty

Cite this Entry

“Travesty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural travesties
: an imitation that makes crude fun of something
: an inferior imitation or likeness
a travesty of justice
travesty verb

More from Merriam-Webster on travesty

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