zar·​zue·​la ˌzär-zə-ˈwā-lə How to pronounce zarzuela (audio)
: a usually comic Spanish operetta

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Zarzuela is connected with the Spanish opera La Zarzuela, which entranced audiences with its different vocal and musical styles. The word toured into English in the 18th century. Alfred Einstein (the musicologist cousin of Albert) assisted in its establishment in the language by including it in his 1947 work Music in the Romantic Era. More recently, the word has begun to appear on the Spanish culinary stage as a term for a rich and savory seafood dish. A couple of the specific entrées that have emerged are the piebald "zarzuela de maiscos," a mixture of seafood, and the "zarzuela de pescados," a potpourri of fish.

Examples of zarzuela in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Orchestra of New Spain continues its sampling of zarzuela, Spanish baroque opera-lite mixing speech and song, with a staging of Sebastián Durón’s Love Conquers Impossible Love. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 13 Feb. 2020 Pacific Lyric started out performing zarzuela, a Spanish-language style of opera, in Los Angeles in 2009. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Sep. 2019 Born in Spain, Domingo grew up singing zarzuelas onstage in Mexico with his parents. Los Angeles Times, 13 Aug. 2019 Martínez Casado, who played mother Juana, was stage-trained in opera and zarzuelas. Carlos Frías, miamiherald, 21 Dec. 2017 Rodriguez also pulls in more disparate strands from Frida’s time and place, including tangos and elements of zarzuela, ragtime, vaudeville and 1930s jazz. Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register, 8 June 2017

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

Word History


Spanish, probably from La Zarzuela, royal residence near Madrid where it was first performed

First Known Use

1770, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of zarzuela was in 1770


Dictionary Entries Near zarzuela

Cite this Entry

“Zarzuela.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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