Definitions

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

  • n. Stage entertainment offering a variety of short acts such as slapstick turns, song-and-dance routines, and juggling performances.
  • n. A theatrical performance of this kind; a variety show.
  • n. A light comic play that often includes songs, pantomime, and dances.
  • n. A popular, often satirical song.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A style of multi-act theatrical entertainment which flourished in North America from the 1880s through the 1920s.
  • n. An entertainment in this style.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A kind of song of a lively character, frequently embodying a satire on some person or event, sung to a familiar air in couplets with a refrain; a street song; a topical song.
  • n. A theatrical piece, usually a comedy, the dialogue of which is intermingled with light or satirical songs, set to familiar airs.
  • n. a variety show when performed live in a theater (see above).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The name given by Oliver Basselin, a French poet of the fifteenth century, to his convivial songs composed in the valley of the Vire, which became very popular throughout France.
  • n. Hence In modern French poetry, a light, gay song, frequently embodying a satire, consisting of several couplets with a refrain or burden, sung to a familiar air, and often introduced into theatrical pieces; a song popular with the common people, and sung about the streets; a ballad; a topical song.
  • n. A light kind of dramatic entertainment, combining pantomime with dialogue and songs, which obtained great popularity about the middle of the eighteenth century.

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

  • n. a variety show with songs and comic acts etc.

Etymologies

French, alteration of Old French vaudevire, occasional or topical light popular song, possibly short for chanson du Vau de Vire, song of Vau de Vire, a valley of northwest France, or perhaps dialectal vauder, to go + virer, to turn; see veer1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Corruption of bawdy village (after the supposedly scandalous nature of chorus lines in 19th century Paris), where the alliterative effect thus realized was supposed to be humorous or comical. (Wiktionary)

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