[kuh-til-yuh n, koh-]


a formal ball given especially for debutantes.
a lively French social dance originating in the 18th century, consisting of a variety of steps and figures and performed by couples.
any of various dances resembling the quadrille.
music arranged or played for these dances.
a formalized dance for a large number of people, in which a head couple leads the other dancers through elaborate and stately figures.

Origin of cotillion

1760–70; < French cotillon kind of dance, in Old French: petticoat, equivalent to cote coat + -illon diminutive suffix Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cotillion

Contemporary Examples of cotillion

Historical Examples of cotillion

  • The shopwoman displayed her assortment of cotillion objects.

    A Nest of Spies

    Pierre Souvestre

  • It was the week of the Moore cotillion that Miss Winthrop observed the change in him.

    The Wall Street Girl

    Frederick Orin Bartlett

  • I simply said I wanted to be excused from taking her to the cotillion.

    Stanford Stories

    Charles K. Field

  • At any rate, under the circumstances I don't feel that I can take you to the cotillion.

    Stanford Stories

    Charles K. Field

  • During the encampment we have a hop three times a week—a cotillion party.


    Elizabeth Wetherell

British Dictionary definitions for cotillion




a French formation dance of the 18th century
US a quadrille
US a complicated dance with frequent changes of partners
US and Canadian a formal ball, esp one at which debutantes are presented

Word Origin for cotillion

C18: from French cotillon dance, from Old French: petticoat, from cote coat
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 cotillion

type of dance, 1766, from French cotillion (15c.), originally "petticoat," a double diminutive of Old French cote "skirt" (see coat (n.)); its application to a kind of dance arose in France and is considered obscure by some linguists, but there are lively turns in the dance that flash the petticoats.

Meaning "formal ball" is 1898, American English, short for cotillion ball. French uses -on (from Latin -onem) to reinforce Latin nouns felt to need more emphatic power (e.g. poisson from Latin piscis). It also uses -on to form diminutives, often strengthened by the insertion of -ill-, as in the case of this word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper