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Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from Middle French courtisane, from Italian cortigiana, feminine of cortigiano (courtier), from corte (court), itself from Latin cohors.[1]


  • (UK, non-rhotic) IPA(key): /kɔːtɪˈzæn/, /ˈkɔːtɪzæn/, /ˈkɔːtɪzən/
  • (file)
  • (UK, rhotic) IPA(key): /kɔɹtɪˈzæn/, /ˈkɔɹtɪzæn/, /ˈkɔɹtɪzən/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkɔɹtɪzən/, /ˈkɔɹtɪzæn/, /ˈkoɹtɪzən/, /ˈkoɹtɪzæn/


courtesan (plural courtesans)

  1. A female prostitute, especially one with high-status or wealthy clients.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:prostitute
    • 1909, Charles Baudelaire, “The Irreparable”, in John Collings Squire, transl., Poems and Baudelaire Flowers:
      What wine, what drug, what philtre known of man / Will drown this ancient foe, / Ruthless and ravenous as a courtesan, / Sure as an ant, and slow?
    • 2014, Frances Wilson, The Courtesan's Revenge[1], Faber & Faber, →ISBN, page 10:
      In the notes he wrote for Nana, his novel about a courtesan in Second Empire Paris, Zola imagined ‘a whole society hurling itself’ at her body, ‘a pack of hounds after a bitch, who is not even on heat and makes fun of the hounds following her’. This might also describe the life of Harriette Wilson, whose unguarded pursuit by the leaders of the British aristocracy, the army, the government and opposition made her the most desired, and then the most dangerous, woman in Regency London.
  2. (dated) The mistress of a royal or noble.
  3. (archaic) A woman of a royal or noble court.



Further reading[edit]