|a serialized drama, usually dealing with domestic themes and characterized by sentimentality, broadcast on radio or television|
|[C20: so called because manufacturers of soap were typical sponsors]|
A radio or television serial with stock characters in domestic dramas that are noted for being sentimental and melodramatic. For example, She just watches soap operas all day long. This term originated in the mid-1930s and was so called because the sponsors of the earliest such radio shows were often soap manufacturers.
Real-life situation resembling one that might occur in a soap opera, as in She just goes on and on about her various medical and family problems, one long soap opera. [1940s]