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[sin-duh-rel-uh] /ˌsɪn dəˈrɛl ə/
a heroine of a fairy tale or folk tale who is maltreated by a malevolent stepmother but achieves happiness and marries a prince through the benevolent intervention of a fairy godmother.
(italics) the tale itself, the earliest version of which is in Chinese and dates from the 9th century a.d.
(italics) a ballet (1945) with musical score by Sergei Prokofiev.
a person or thing of merit, undeservedly neglected or forced into a wretched or obscure existence.
a person who achieves unexpected or sudden success or recognition, especially after obscurity, neglect, or misery. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for Cinderella


a girl who achieves fame after being obscure
  1. a poor, neglected, or unsuccessful person or thing
  2. (as modifier): a Cinderella service within the NHS
(modifier) relating to dramatic success: a Cinderella story
Word Origin
C19: after Cinderella, the heroine of a fairy tale who is aided by a fairy godmother
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 Cinderella

pseudo-translation of French Cendrillon, from cendre "ashes" (see cinder). Used figuratively for something unappreciated or something that ends at midnight. A widespread Eurasian folk tale, the oldest known version is Chinese (c.850 C.E.); the English version is based on Perrault's "Cendrillon" (1697), translated from French 1729 by Robert Sambler, but native versions probably existed (e.g. Scottish "Rashin Coatie"). The German form is Aschenbrödel, literally "scullion," from asche "ash" (see ash (n.1)) + brodeln "bubble up, to brew."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Cinderella in Culture

“Cinderella” definition

A fairy tale from the collection of Charles Perrault. Cinderella, a young girl, is forced by her stepmother and stepsisters to do heavy housework and relaxes by sitting among the cinders by the fireplace. One evening, when the prince of the kingdom is holding a ball, Cinderella's fairy godmother visits her, magically dresses her for the ball, turns a pumpkin into a magnificent carriage for her, warns her not to stay past midnight, and sends her off. Cinderella captivates the prince at the ball but leaves just as midnight is striking, and in her haste she drops a slipper; as the story is usually told in English, the slipper is made of glass. She returns home with her fine clothes turned back into rags and her carriage a pumpkin again. The prince searches throughout the kingdom for the owner of the slipper. Cinderella is the only one whom it fits, and the prince marries her.

Note: The name Cinderella is sometimes applied to a person or group that undergoes a sudden transformation, such as an athletic team that loses frequently and then starts to win steadily.
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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