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[kuh-til-yuh n, koh-] /kəˈtɪl yən, koʊ-/
a formal ball given especially for debutantes.
a lively French social dance originating in the 18th century, consisting of a variety of steps and figures and performed by couples.
any of various dances resembling the quadrille.
music arranged or played for these dances.
a formalized dance for a large number of people, in which a head couple leads the other dancers through elaborate and stately figures.
Origin of cotillion
1760-70; < French cotillon kind of dance, in Old French: petticoat, equivalent to cote coat + -illon diminutive suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cotillion
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The shopwoman displayed her assortment of cotillion objects.

    A Nest of Spies Pierre Souvestre
  • It was the week of the Moore cotillion that Miss Winthrop observed the change in him.

    The Wall Street Girl Frederick Orin Bartlett
  • I simply said I wanted to be excused from taking her to the cotillion.

    Stanford Stories Charles K. Field
  • At any rate, under the circumstances I don't feel that I can take you to the cotillion.

    Stanford Stories Charles K. Field
  • During the encampment we have a hop three times a week—a cotillion party.

    Daisy Elizabeth Wetherell
  • Kitty was giving a cotillion, an event of some importance in Woodford.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston Caroline E. Jacobs
  • Then they had a cotillion in which there was a great deal of bowing.

    A Little Girl in Old Boston Amanda Millie Douglas
  • He went to the barn one morning, just as the cotillion commenced.

    Peck's Sunshine George W. Peck
  • I told her to keep the cotillion in case you should ask for it.

British Dictionary definitions for cotillion


/kəˈtɪljən; kəʊ-/
a French formation dance of the 18th century
(US) a quadrille
(US) a complicated dance with frequent changes of partners
(US & Canadian) a formal ball, esp one at which debutantes are presented
Word Origin
C18: from French cotillon dance, from Old French: petticoat, from cotecoat
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 cotillion

type of dance, 1766, from French cotillion (15c.), originally "petticoat," a double diminutive of Old French cote "skirt" (see coat (n.)); its application to a kind of dance arose in France and is considered obscure by some linguists, but there are lively turns in the dance that flash the petticoats.

Meaning "formal ball" is 1898, American English, short for cotillion ball. French uses -on (from Latin -onem) to reinforce Latin nouns felt to need more emphatic power (e.g. poisson from Latin piscis). It also uses -on to form diminutives, often strengthened by the insertion of -ill-, as in the case of this word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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