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[ba-ley, bal-ey] /bæˈleɪ, ˈbæl eɪ/
a classical dance form demanding grace and precision and employing formalized steps and gestures set in intricate, flowing patterns to create expression through movement.
a theatrical entertainment in which ballet dancing and music, often with scenery and costumes, combine to tell a story, establish an emotional atmosphere, etc.
an interlude of ballet in an operatic performance.
a company of ballet dancers.
the musical score for a ballet:
the brilliant ballets of Tchaikovsky.
a dance or balletlike performance:
an ice-skating ballet.
Origin of ballet
1660-70; < French, Middle French < Italian balletto, equivalent to ball(o) ball2 + -etto -et
Related forms
[ba-let-ik, buh-] /bæˈlɛt ɪk, bə-/ (Show IPA),
balletically, adverb
Can be confused
ballad, ballet, ballot. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ballet
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And never danced a tango, plus forte raison, or saw a Russian ballet.

    The Third Window Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • I have given the necessary orders to the cook for you, and for the ballet.

  • The delicate daintiness of the Danish ballet everyone must appreciate.

    Denmark M. Pearson Thomson
  • The novice hardly believes his eyes: the ballet dancer is also a man.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • Has the ballet declined on this account, or is this to be ascribed to the decline of the ballet?

    A Book of the Play Dutton Cook
British Dictionary definitions for ballet


/ˈbæleɪ; bæˈleɪ/
  1. a classical style of expressive dancing based on precise conventional steps with gestures and movements of grace and fluidity
  2. (as modifier): ballet dancer
a theatrical representation of a story or theme performed to music by ballet dancers
a troupe of ballet dancers
a piece of music written for a ballet
Derived Forms
balletic (bæˈlɛtɪk) adjective
Word Origin
C17: from French, from Italian balletto literally: a little dance, from ballare to dance; see ball²
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
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Word Origin and History for ballet

1660s, from French ballette from Italian balletto, diminutive of ballo "a dance" (see ball (n.2)). Balletomane attested by 1930.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ballet in Culture

ballet definition

Theatrical entertainment in which dancers, usually accompanied by music, tell a story or express a mood through their movements. The technique of ballet is elaborate and requires many years of training. Two classical ballets are Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Two great modern ballets are The Rite of Spring, composed by Igor Stravinsky, and Fancy Free, by Leonard Bernstein.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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