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demi-monde

n.

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
  • Anonyma, a lady of the demi-monde, or worse; a pretty horsebreaker.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • At this election, for the first time, the demi-monde were compelled to register.

  • There was that in her manner that indicated the wisdom of the demi-monde.

    Little Lost Sister Virginia Brooks
  • The furniture is hired by the fortnight from Fitily, the upholsterer of the demi-monde.

    The Nabob Alphonse Daudet
  • As he refuses to be attracted by modesty of dress and manner, she apes the dress and manner of the demi-monde.

  • 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
  • After a wild career in the capital as the reigning figure of the demi-monde, Theodora suddenly disappeared.

    Women of Early Christianity Alfred Brittain
  • I am not putting you into the demi-monde; I'm giving you a chance at everything.

    The Salamander Owen Johnson
  • What the demi-monde does in its frantic efforts to excite attention, she also does in imitation.

  • As to the demi-monde it was the pick of America, for obvious reason.

    Ancestors Gertrude Atherton

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