In contemporary usage, burlesque is a playfully nostalgic form of striptease — think fans and feather boas rather than explicit nudity — but this is just the latest form of an ironic style of entertainment dating back to medieval times.

Burlesque comes from burla, Spanish for "joke." Comedy has always been an essential part of burlesque art, but it's comedy of a particular kind. Burlesque is satirical, and it uses exaggeration that can be extreme. Early examples of burlesque in English literature can be found in the Canterbury Tales. By the eighteenth century, the word was used to describe often risqué parodies of serious operas or plays. Burlesque became associated with striptease in the music halls and vaudeville theaters of nineteenth-century America.

Definitions of burlesque
  1. noun
    a theatrical entertainment of broad and earthy humor; consists of comic skits and short turns (and sometimes striptease)
    see moresee less
    type of:
    a social event involving a public performance or entertainment
  2. noun
    a composition that imitates or misrepresents somebody's style, usually in a humorous way
    synonyms: charade, lampoon, mockery, parody, pasquinade, put-on, sendup, spoof, takeoff, travesty
    see moresee less
    type of:
    caricature, imitation, impersonation
    a representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect
  3. verb
    make a parody of
    synonyms: parody, spoof
    see moresee less
    make a travesty of
    type of:
    imitate with mockery and derision
  4. adjective
    relating to or characteristic of a burlesque
    burlesque theater”
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week