Definitions

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

  • n. A drama, typically performed as a serial on daytime television or radio, characterized by stock characters and situations, sentimentality, and melodrama.
  • n. A series of experiences characterized by dramatic displays of emotion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A radio or television serial, typically broadcast in the afternoon or evening, about the lives of melodramatic characters, which are often filled with strong emotions, highly dramatic situations and suspense.

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

  • n. a serialized program usually dealing with sentimentalized family matters that is broadcast on radio or television (frequently sponsored by a company advertising soap products)

Etymologies

From its originally having been sponsored by soap companies.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From soap + opera: soap from the soap and detergent commercials originally broadcast during the shows, which were aimed at women who were cleaning their house at the time of viewing; opera from the melodramatic character of the shows. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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