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[ber-lesk] /bərˈlɛsk/
an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.
any ludicrous parody or grotesque caricature.
Also, burlesk. a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus.
involving ludicrous or mocking treatment of a solemn subject.
of, relating to, or like stage-show burlesque.
verb (used with object), burlesqued, burlesquing.
to make ridiculous by mocking representation.
verb (used without object), burlesqued, burlesquing.
to use caricature.
Origin of burlesque
1650-60; < French < Italian burlesco, equivalent to burl(a) jest (perhaps < Spanish; cf. burladero) + -esco -esque
Related forms
burlesquely, adverb
burlesquer, noun
preburlesque, adjective
unburlesqued, adjective
Can be confused
burlesque, caricature, cartoon, parody, satire (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. satire, lampoon, farce.
Synonym Study
1. Burlesque, caricature, parody, travesty refer to the literary or dramatic forms that imitate serious works or subjects to achieve a humorous or satiric purpose. The characteristic device of burlesque is mockery of both high and low through association with their opposites: a burlesque of high and low life. Caricature, usually associated with visual arts or with visual effects in literary works, implies exaggeration of characteristic details: The caricature emphasized his nose. Parody achieves its humor through application of the manner or technique, usually of a well-known writer, to unaccustomed subjects: a parody by Swift. Travesty implies a grotesque form of burlesque: characters so changed as to produce a travesty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for burlesque


an artistic work, esp literary or dramatic, satirizing a subject by caricaturing it
a ludicrous imitation or caricature
a play of the 17th–19th centuries that parodied some contemporary dramatic fashion or event
(US & Canadian, theatre) Also burlesk. a bawdy comedy show of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the striptease eventually became one of its chief elements Slang name burleycue
of, relating to, or characteristic of a burlesque
verb -lesques, -lesquing, -lesqued
to represent or imitate (a person or thing) in a ludicrous way; caricature
Derived Forms
burlesquer, noun
Word Origin
C17: from French, from Italian burlesco, from burla a jest, piece of nonsense
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for burlesque

1660s, "derisive imitation, grotesque parody," from French burlesque (16c.), from Italian burlesco, from burla "joke, fun, mockery," possibly ultimately from Late Latin burra "trifle, nonsense," literally "flock of wool." Modern sense of "variety show featuring striptease" is American English, 1870. Originally (1857) "the sketches at the end of minstrel shows." As a verb, from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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