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cancan

[kan-kan] /ˈkænˌkæn/
noun
1.
a lively high kicking dance that came into vogue about 1830 in Paris and after 1844 was used as an exhibition dance.
Origin
1840-1850
1840-50; < French, repetitive compound (based on can) said to be nursery variant of canard duck; see canard
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for cancan

cancan

/ˈkænˌkæn/
noun
1.
a high-kicking dance performed by a female chorus, originating in the music halls of 19th-century Paris
Word Origin
C19: from French, of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for cancan
n.

also can-can, 1848, from French, possibly from can, a French children's word for "duck" (cf. canard), via some notion of "waddling" too obscure or obscene to attempt to disentangle here. Or perhaps from French cancan (16c.) "noise, disturbance," echoic of quacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for cancan

lively and risque dance of French or Algerian origin, usually performed onstage by four women. Known for its high kicks in unison that exposed both the petticoat and the leg, the cancan was popular in Parisian dance halls in the 1830s and appeared in variety shows and revues in the 1840s. The cancan is in a lively 24 time and was at first danced to quadrille or galop music. Specific cancans were composed by Jacques Offenbach and other composers after about 1840. Later, the dance appeared in such works as Franz Lehar's operetta Die lustige Witwe (1905; The Merry Widow) and Cole Porter's musical comedy Can-Can (1953). It can also be seen in several films, including John Huston's Moulin Rouge (1952), a fictional account of the life of the artist perhaps most commonly associated with Montmartre, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Jean Renoir's classic French Cancan (1955); and Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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