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See also: hetæra


Phryne revealed before the Areopagus (1861) by Jean-Léon Gérôme. The painting depicts Phryne, a famous hetaera of Ancient Greece, on trial before the Areopagus.

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From Ancient Greek ἑταῖρα (hetaîra), feminine of ἑταῖρος (hetaîros, companion).



hetaera (plural hetaerae or hetaeras)

  1. (historical, Ancient Greece) A highly cultivated hired female companion who would entertain upper-class male clients and might perform sex acts for them.
    Coordinate term: courtesan
    • 1957, Lawrence Durrell, Justine:
      But of course our friend is only a shallow twentieth-century reproduction of the great hetairae of the past, the type to which she belongs without knowing it, Lais, Charis and the rest...
  2. A mistress.
    • 1971, Gottfried Benn & E. B. Ashton, Primal vision: selected writings‎
      Woman is dethroned as the primary and supreme sex, debased into inseminable hetaera.
    • 1980, Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers
      Christ appeared, only to reveal himself as the naked god Pan. Ballet of hetaerae and houris, choreography by Italo Castaldi.

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