[ba-ley, bal-ey]


a classical dance form demanding grace and precision and employing formalized steps and gestures set in intricate, flowing patterns to create expression through movement.
a theatrical entertainment in which ballet dancing and music, often with scenery and costumes, combine to tell a story, establish an emotional atmosphere, etc.
an interlude of ballet in an operatic performance.
a company of ballet dancers.
the musical score for a ballet: the brilliant ballets of Tchaikovsky.
a dance or balletlike performance: an ice-skating ballet.

Origin of ballet

1660–70; < French, Middle French < Italian balletto, equivalent to ball(o) ball2 + -etto -et
Related formsbal·let·ic [ba-let-ik, buh-] /bæˈlɛt ɪk, bə-/, adjectivebal·let·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedballad ballet ballot Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for ballet

dance, choreography

Examples from the Web for ballet

Contemporary Examples of ballet

Historical Examples of ballet

  • The ballet's good, the scenery is splendid, and the music might be worse.

  • I have given the necessary orders to the cook for you, and for the ballet.

  • The ballet at Reisenburg was not merely a vehicle for the display of dancing.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • For instance, suppose the story of Othello the subject of the ballet.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • The novice hardly believes his eyes: the ballet dancer is also a man.

British Dictionary definitions for ballet



  1. a classical style of expressive dancing based on precise conventional steps with gestures and movements of grace and fluidity
  2. (as modifier)ballet dancer
a theatrical representation of a story or theme performed to music by ballet dancers
a troupe of ballet dancers
a piece of music written for a ballet
Derived Formsballetic (bæˈlɛtɪk), adjective

Word Origin for ballet

C17: from French, from Italian balletto literally: a little dance, from ballare to dance; see ball ²
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

Word Origin and History for ballet

1660s, from French ballette from Italian balletto, diminutive of ballo "a dance" (see ball (n.2)). Balletomane attested by 1930.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ballet in Culture


Theatrical entertainment in which dancers, usually accompanied by music, tell a story or express a mood through their movements. The technique of ballet is elaborate and requires many years of training. Two classical ballets are Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Two great modern ballets are The Rite of Spring, composed by Igor Stravinsky, and Fancy Free, by Leonard Bernstein.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.