Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A drama, such as a play, film, or television program, characterized by exaggerated emotions, stereotypical characters, and interpersonal conflicts.
  • n. The dramatic genre characterized by this treatment.
  • n. Behavior or occurrences having melodramatic characteristics.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. (uncountable) A kind of drama having a musical accompaniment to intensify the effect of certain scenes.
  • n. A drama abounding in romantic sentiment and agonizing situations, with a musical accompaniment only in parts which are especially thrilling or pathetic. In opera, a passage in which the orchestra plays a somewhat descriptive accompaniment, while the actor speaks; as, the melodrama in the grave digging scene of Beethoven's "Fidelio".
  • n. Any situation or action which is blown out of proportion.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Formerly, a kind of drama having a musical accompaniment to intensify the effect of certain scenes. Now, a drama abounding in romantic sentiment and agonizing situations, with a musical accompaniment only in parts which are especially thrilling or pathetic. In opera, a passage in which the orchestra plays a somewhat descriptive accompaniment, while the actor speaks.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Properly, a dramatic composition in which music is used, or an opera in the broad sense.
  • n. A drama with incidental music, or an operetta with more or less spoken dialogue; a piece in which speech and song (or instrumental music) alternate. Also melodram.
  • n. A form of the drama characterized by compositions in which the music is of but moderate importance or value, and the plot and scenes are of a decidedly romantic and sensational nature.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an extravagant comedy in which action is more salient than characterization

Etymologies

Alteration of melodrame, from French mélodrame, spoken drama that includes some musical accompaniment, melodrama : Greek melos, song + French drame, drama (from Late Latin drāma; see drama).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French mélodrame, the second element refashioned by analogy with drama; ultimately from Ancient Greek μέλος (melos, "limb”, “member”, “song”, “tune”, “melody") + δρᾶμα (drāma, "deed”, “theatrical act"). Compare melodrame. Cognate to German Melodram and Spanish melodrama. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "So the super-groupies turn out to be Heathcote and Anthony. Their act was so far from being calculated that neither of them understands to this day why he did it. The act was thus: Heathcote sprang up from his seat, shook off the bigger people who grabbed him and leapt at the goose, held aloft by Muehl who was bigger than he and on a higher level. He succeeded in snatching it and was brought down by the opposition, so that contrary to every journalist's instinct Anthony reverted to schoolboy morality and ran off with the goose. Yah! Sucks! Boo! to the bully. The underdog is alive and well and living on a barge in Amsterdam. It was bloody good fun, and we cheered like workers at a melodrama. Muehl flapped around the stage brandishing his knife. Come his last truly great performance he will gut himself and fuck his own liver. What is life where art is concerned?"
    - 'The Wet Dream Film Festival', Germaine Greer in Suck, 1971.

    April 2, 2008