Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 31st, 2015
Episode 305 of 793 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 31, 2015 is: vaudeville \VAUD-vil\ noun 1 : a light often comic theatrical piece frequently combining pantomime, dialogue, dancing, and song 2 : stage entertainment consisting of various acts (such as performing animals, comedians, or singers) Examples: Andrew's interest in vaudeville can be traced to his grandparents, who met as performers in the 1920s. "This show is a throwback to vaudeville, with cheesy humor, plenty of audience participation, classic card tricks, flying arrows, colored live birds, fire, snow, choreography and just plain fun." Tom Wharton, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 June 2015 Did you know? In the 15th century, several amusing songs became popular across France. These songs were said to have been written by a man named Olivier Basselin who lived in the valley of the river Vire in northwest France. The songs eventually became known as chansons du vau-de-Vire, meaning "songs of the valley of Vire." Other people began writing and performing similar songs, and as this form of entertainment became more widespread, the link to vau-de-Vire was forgotten, and the nickname was shortened to one word: vaudevire. As the phenomenon spread beyond France, further changes in pronunciation and spelling shifted vaudevire into vaudeville. The meaning also broadened to include humorous performances and variety shows.