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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-).
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