roman à clef

[ raw-mah na-kle ]
/ rɔ mɑ na ˈklɛ /
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noun, plural ro·mans à clef [raw-mahnza-kle]. /rɔ mɑ̃ za ˈklɛ/. French.
a novel that represents historical events and characters under the guise of fiction.
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Origin of roman à clef

First recorded in 1880–85; literally “novel with a key,” the key being the connection between the fictional and nonfictional elements of the novel
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for roman à clef

roman à clef
/ French (rɔmɑ̃ a kle) /

noun plural romans à clef (rɔmɑ̃ a kle)
a novel in which real people are depicted under fictitious names

Word Origin for roman à clef

literally: novel with a key
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 roman à clef

roman à clef
[ (roh-mahn ah klay) ]

A novel in which actual people and places are disguised as fictional characters. Roman à clef is French for “novel with a key.”

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.