[ sin-duh-rel-uh ]

  1. a heroine of a fairy tale or folk tale who is maltreated by a malevolent stepmother but achieves happiness and marries a prince through the benevolent intervention of a fairy godmother.

  2. (italics) the tale itself, the earliest version of which is in Chinese and dates from the 9th century a.d.

  1. (italics) a ballet (1945) with musical score by Sergei Prokofiev.

  2. a person or thing of merit, undeservedly neglected or forced into a wretched or obscure existence.

  3. a person or thing that achieves unexpected or sudden success or recognition, especially after obscurity, neglect, or misery (often used attributively): Which team will find themselves the Cinderella of this year’s college basketball season?

Origin of Cinderella

First recorded in 1840–50; partial translation of French Cendrillon “Little Ashes,” from Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre “Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper” (1697)

Words Nearby Cinderella Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use Cinderella in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Cinderella


/ (ˌsɪndəˈrɛlə) /

  1. a girl who achieves fame after being obscure

    • a poor, neglected, or unsuccessful person or thing

    • (as modifier): a Cinderella service within the NHS

  1. (modifier) relating to dramatic success: a Cinderella story

Origin of Cinderella

C19: after Cinderella, the heroine of a fairy tale who is aided by a fairy godmother

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

Cultural definitions for “Cinderella”


A fairy tale from the collection of Charles Perrault. Cinderella, a young girl, is forced by her stepmother and stepsisters to do heavy housework and relaxes by sitting among the cinders by the fireplace. One evening, when the prince of the kingdom is holding a ball, Cinderella's fairy godmother visits her, magically dresses her for the ball, turns a pumpkin into a magnificent carriage for her, warns her not to stay past midnight, and sends her off. Cinderella captivates the prince at the ball but leaves just as midnight is striking, and in her haste she drops a slipper; as the story is usually told in English, the slipper is made of glass. She returns home with her fine clothes turned back into rags and her carriage a pumpkin again. The prince searches throughout the kingdom for the owner of the slipper. Cinderella is the only one whom it fits, and the prince marries her.

Notes for “Cinderella”

The name Cinderella is sometimes applied to a person or group that undergoes a sudden transformation, such as an athletic team that loses frequently and then starts to win steadily.

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.