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A cotillion ball

Alternative forms[edit]


Circa 1750, in the sense of the dance, from French cotillon (petticoat), extended to the dance because of the distinctive lift of dress revealing the petticoat, from cotte (dress) + -illon (diminutive). Said to derive from the then-popular song Ma commère, quand je danse, mon cotillion va-t-il bien.



cotillion (plural cotillions)

  1. (dance) A bold dance performed in groups of eight where women lift their skirts to display their ankles. [from 1766]
    • 1803 (date written), [Jane Austen], chapter X, in Northanger Abbey; published in Northanger Abbey: And Persuasion. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: John Murray, [], 20 December 1817 (indicated as 1818), →OCLC:
      Mrs. Hughes now joined them, and asked Miss Tilney if she was ready to go. "I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again soon," said Catherine. "Shall you be at the cotillion ball tomorrow?"
    • 1833, [Frederick Marryat], chapter XII, in Peter Simple. [], volume II, London: Saunders and Otley, [], published 1834, →OCLC, page 200:
      The second figure [of the dance] commenced, and I made a sad bungle; so I did of the third, and fourth, and fifth, for I never had danced a cotillon.
  2. (music) The music regulating the cotillion.
    • 1848 I kept a parlor open for the reception of visitors, many came here to practise with me, and many more to listen to us—several young men put themselves under my tuition, and although I had never been taught myself, they progressed finely in their studies and I soon brought out, not only the best field music, but also for dinners, balls, cotilion and tea parties, weddings, &c. THRILLING SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF THE DISTINGUISHED CHIEF OKAH TUBBEE ALIAS, WM. CHUBBEE, Son of the Head Chief, Mosholeh Tubbee, of theChoctaw Nation of Indians. BY REV. L. L. ALLEN, AUTHOR OF “PENCILLINGS UPON THE RIO GRANDE,” &c. NEW YORK, 1848. ENTERED according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1848, by Okah Tubbee, alias William Chubbee, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York. AN ESSAY UPON THE INDIAN CHARACTER.[1]
  3. (US) Ellipsis of cotillion ball.; a coming-of-age party meant to present girls newly transitioned into womanhood to the community for courtship. [from 1898]
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC, page 51:
      "Well," I answered, at first with uncertainty, then with inspiration, "he would do splendidly to lead your cotillon, if you think of having one." / "So you do not dance, Mr. Crocker?" / I was somewhat set back by her perspicuity.
    • 2018 May 29, Christopher Bonanos, “The Making of Tom Wolfe’s ‘Radical Chic’”, in Vulture[2]:
      At a desk outside the [Bernsteins’] door … I said, ‘Tom Wolfe,’ and sure enough, there he was, Tom Wolfe, listed on a yellow legal pad … Like any boy who has been instructed at cotillion to pay his respects to the host and hostess first … I sought out Leonard and Felicia Bernstein and introduced myself.
  4. (textiles) A kind of woollen material for women's skirts.



cotillion (third-person singular simple present cotillions, present participle cotillioning, simple past and past participle cotillioned)

  1. (intransitive, rare) To dance the cotillion.

Further reading[edit]