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soubrette

[soo-bret] /suˈbrɛt/
noun
1.
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.
2.
an actress playing such a role.
3.
any lively or pert young woman.
Origin
1745-1755
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
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for soubrettish

soubrette

/suːˈbrɛt/
noun
1.
a minor female role in comedy, often that of a pert lady's maid
2.
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
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Word Origin and History for soubrettish

soubrette

n.

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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Encyclopedia Article for soubrettish

soubrette

in theatre, comic female character usually in the role of a chambermaid. The soubrette role originated in French comedy, one of the earliest examples being Suzanne in Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais' Le Mariage de Figaro (1784). Still earlier, Moliere's plays Tartuffe (1664) and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) contained versions of the character in the roles of Dorine and Nicole

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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