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].
Examples from the Web for demi-monde
He was a handsome man, still young, who had a large practice in the demi-monde.A Zola Dictionary
J. G. Patterson
At this election, for the first time, the demi-monde were compelled to register.
The furniture is hired by the fortnight from Fitily, the upholsterer of the demi-monde.The Nabob
There was that in her manner that indicated the wisdom of the demi-monde.Little Lost Sister
Anonyma, a lady of the demi-monde, or worse; a pretty horsebreaker.The Slang Dictionary
John Camden Hotten