1. an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.
  2. any ludicrous parody or grotesque caricature.
  3. Also bur·lesk. a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus.


  1. involving ludicrous or mocking treatment of a solemn subject.
  2. of, relating to, or like stage-show burlesque.

verb (used with object), bur·lesqued, bur·lesquing.

  1. to make ridiculous by mocking representation.

verb (used without object), bur·lesqued, bur·lesquing.

  1. to use caricature.


  1. an artistic work, esp literary or dramatic, satirizing a subject by caricaturing it
  2. a ludicrous imitation or caricature
  3. a play of the 17th–19th centuries that parodied some contemporary dramatic fashion or event
  4. Also: burlesk US and Canadian theatre a bawdy comedy show of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the striptease eventually became one of its chief elementsSlang name: burleycue


  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a burlesque

verb -lesques, -lesquing or -lesqued

  1. to represent or imitate (a person or thing) in a ludicrous way; caricature

1660s, “derisive imitation, grotesque parody,” from French burlesque (16c.), from Italian burlesco, from burla “joke, fun, mockery,” possibly ultimately from Late Latin burra “trifle, nonsense,” literally “flock of wool.” Modern sense of “variety show featuring striptease” is American English, 1870. Originally (1857) “the sketches at the end of minstrel shows.” As a verb, from 1670s.

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