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1855, also demimonde, from French demi-monde "so-so society," literally "half-world," from demi- "half" + monde, from Latin mundus "world" (see mundane).

Popularized by use as title of a comedy by Alexandre Dumas fils (1824-1895). Dumas' Demi-Monde "is the link between good and bad society ... the world of compromised women, a social limbo, the inmates of which ... are perpetually struggling to emerge into the paradise of honest and respectable ladies" ["Fraser's Magazine," 1855]. Not properly used of courtesans. Cf. 18th-century English demi-rep (1749, the second element short for reputation), defined as "a woman that intrigues with every man she likes, under the name and appearance of virtue ... in short, whom every body knows to be what no body calls her" [Fielding].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Examples from the Web for demi-monde
Historical Examples
  • He was a handsome man, still young, who had a large practice in the demi-monde.

    A Zola Dictionary J. G. Patterson
  • At this election, for the first time, the demi-monde were compelled to register.

  • The furniture is hired by the fortnight from Fitily, the upholsterer of the demi-monde.

    The Nabob Alphonse Daudet
  • There was that in her manner that indicated the wisdom of the demi-monde.

    Little Lost Sister Virginia Brooks
  • Anonyma, a lady of the demi-monde, or worse; a pretty horsebreaker.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • I should like to get a place in the house of some member of the demi-monde, or else in America.

    A Chambermaid's Diary Octave Mirbeau
  • She was obviously a woman of the demi-monde and probably French.

    December Love Robert Hichens
  • To the monde and the demi-monde Bindo was alike a popular person.

    The Count's Chauffeur William Le Queux
  • But neither of us wants to descend to the demi-monde, I mean what we mean by demi-monde in Germany.

    The Song of Songs Hermann Sudermann
  • I am not putting you into the demi-monde; I'm giving you a chance at everything.

    The Salamander Owen Johnson

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