Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A knightly servant of a high-born lady.
  • n. A married woman's lover; a kept man.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A professed admirer of a married woman; a dangler about women.
  • n. A knot of silk or ribbon attached to a fan, walking stick, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In Italy, since the seventeenth century, the name given to a professed gallant and attendant of a married woman; one who dangles about women.
  • n. A bow of silk or ribbon with long pendent ends attached to a walking-stick, the hilt of a sword, or the handle of a fan.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Italian cicisbeo

Examples

  • The cicisbeo is a bony cartilaginous gentleman, fixt perpendicularly on his saddle like a telegraph-pole.

    Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2

  • According to the _Vocab. della Crusca_, "cicisbeo" is an inversion of "bel cece," beautiful chick

    The Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 4

  • As a consequence we have the 'cicisbeo', and in Italy as in France the idea that our nobles are the sons of their nominal fathers is a purely conventional one.

    The Complete Memoirs of Jacques Casanova

  • How far this political consideration may have weighed against the jealous and vindictive temper of the Italians, I will not pretend to judge: but, certain it is, every married lady in this country has her cicisbeo, or servente, who attends her every where, and on all occasions; and upon whose privileges the husband dares not encroach, without incurring the censure and ridicule of the whole community.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • His account of the cicisbeo and his duties, whether in Nice, Florence, or Rome, is certainly one of the most interesting that we have.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • The husband and the cicisbeo live together as sworn brothers; and the wife and the mistress embrace each other with marks of the warmest affection.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • Here you may perceive the noblesse stretched in pairs upon logs of wood, like so many seals upon the rocks by moon-light, each dame with her cicisbeo: for, you must understand, this Italian fashion prevails at Nice among all ranks of people; and there is not such a passion as jealousy known.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • Before Smollett and his almost contemporary travel correspondent, Samuel Sharp, it would probably be hard to find any mention of the cicisbeo in England, though the word was consecrated by Sheridan a few years later.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • For my part, I would rather be condemned for life to the gallies, than exercise the office of a cicisbeo, exposed to the intolerable caprices and dangerous resentment of an Italian virago.

    Travels through France and Italy

  • After marriage there is a mutual accommodation system suggesting the cicisbeo or mariage à trois school; hence we read that wives, like the much-maligned Xantippe, were borrowed and lent, and that not fulfilling the promise of a loan is punishable by heavy damages.

    Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Wordnik has a "resident orthoepist," and he has a list for just such emergencies. I'll add it to The Request Line.

    April 16, 2011

  • The audio pronunciation of "cicisbeo" offered here does not agree with those I have heard or seen. Dictionary.com offers:

    chee-chiz-bey-oh or, older, si-sis-bee-oh; It. chee-cheez-be-oh

    April 16, 2011

  • This word was chosen as Wordnik word of the day.

    November 11, 2009

  • "'You won't come with us to the ball?' he asked me. 'I can lend you a Venetian cloak and I know someone who will be deucedly glad to see you there—Oriane for one, that goes without saying—but the Princesse de Parme. She never tires of singing your praises, and swears by you. It's lucky for you—since she's a trifle mature— that she is a model of virtue. Otherwise she would certainly have taken you on as a cicisbeo, as they used to say in my young days, a sort of cavaliere servente.'"

    --Sodom and Gomorrah by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, p 168 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    February 6, 2009

  • "For a lady fortunate enough to marry, life was agreeable indeed in Venice in the eighteenth century. Before long she would have acquired for herself a cicisbeo – that specifically Venetian breed, a cavaliere servente but with more than a touch of the gigolo – from whom she would appear practically inseparable, while her older and busier husband would make only comparatively rare appearances at her side. The cicisbeo might or might not be her lover; he would have plenty of opportunities to be, if so required, but this was by no means an invariable rule. Affairs in Venice did not always end up in bed."

    – John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice (London: Penguin, 2003), 595.

    September 29, 2008