[ kan-kan ]
/ ˈkænˌkæn /


a lively high kicking dance that came into vogue about 1830 in Paris and after 1844 was used as an exhibition dance.

Origin of cancan

1840–50; < French, repetitive compound (based on can) said to be nursery variant of canard duck; see canard Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cancan

British Dictionary definitions for cancan


/ (ˈkænˌkæn) /


a high-kicking dance performed by a female chorus, originating in the music halls of 19th-century Paris

Word Origin for cancan

C19: from French, of uncertain origin
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 cancan



also can-can, 1848, from French, possibly from can, a French children's word for "duck" (cf. canard), via some notion of "waddling" too obscure or obscene to attempt to disentangle here. Or perhaps from French cancan (16c.) "noise, disturbance," echoic of quacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper