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[soo-bret] /suˈbrɛt/
a maidservant or lady's maid in a play, opera, or the like, especially one displaying coquetry, pertness, and a tendency to engage in intrigue.
an actress playing such a role.
any lively or pert young woman.
Origin of soubrette
1745-55; < French: lady's maid < Provençal soubreto, derivative of soubret affected, ultimately derivative of Old Provençal sobrar < Latin superāre to be above
Related forms
soubrettish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for soubrette
Historical Examples
  • "She was a soubrette," Gertrude announced, who had never seen a play in her life.

    The Europeans Henry James
  • The girls will dance with the two men, the boys with the soubrette.

    Jill the Reckless P. G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse
  • Trimble, the stage-manager, was in the center of the stage, rearranging a scene with the soubrette and the heavy comic.

    The Salamander Owen Johnson
  • Mademoiselle Pauline, exclaimed the soubrette, as if she doubted her ears.

    Richelieu, v. 1/3 G. P. R. James
  • The soubrette class are instinctive readers of motives; "their only books are 'ladies' looks," but they con them to perfection.

    The Daltons, Volume II (of II) Charles James Lever
  • At the best it is only fitted for a soubrette and her lover in the ultime parti.

  • The soubrette had a lank young body neatly attired in a store suit and shirt-waist.

    Ancestors Gertrude Atherton
  • "Oh, I don't think I'd like to take a soubrette's place," she cried.

    Pretty Geraldine, the New York Salesgirl Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller
  • I was the bad young man of the play, seeking to bring about the dishonor of the soubrette.

    Nat Goodwin's Book Nat C. Goodwin
  • She had chameleon hair, and her poise was that of a soubrette.

    The Imitator Percival Pollard
British Dictionary definitions for soubrette


a minor female role in comedy, often that of a pert lady's maid
any pert or flirtatious girl
Derived Forms
soubrettish, adjective
Word Origin
C18: from French: maidservant, from Provençal soubreto, from soubret conceited, from soubra to exceed, from Latin superāre to surmount, from super above
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 soubrette

1753, theatrical jargon word for lady's maid characters in plays and operas, who typically were pert, flirtatious, and intriguing, from French, from Provençal soubreto "affected, conceited," fem. of soubret "coy, reserved," from soubra "to set aside," originally "to exceed," from Old Provençal sobrar, from Latin superare "to rise above, overcome," from super "over, above, beyond" (see super-).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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