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

  • “The soap opera became a love story,” Johan Jørgen Holst commented self-critically to me in September, after the Washington signing ceremony.

    A Billion Lives

  • I got home early today and watched this soap opera called The Guiding Light.

    Mortified

  • The man was a silver-haired, silver-tongued political animal who had been anointed with the slick look of soap opera doctor, which seemed appropriate considering his talents of impersonation.

    Deception Point

  • For example, data about family planning adoption were gathered at seventy-nine health clinics in Tanzania as a check on the recall data obtained from respondents in survey interviews about the role of an entertainment-education radio soap opera in convincing them to adopt Rogers et al., 1999.

    Diffusion of Innovations

  • He was replaced by Karima Moktar, a well-known soap opera actress, who was perceived as highly credible for the topic of ORT.

    Diffusion of Innovations

  • A thud came from the window and Denise Jackson turned away from her afternoon soap opera to stare at the closed blinds.

    Surrender the Dark

  • For example, the diffusion intervention may be an entertainment-education soap opera about family planning or HIV/AIDS prevention that is broadcast in one area and not in another Rogers et al., 1999.

    Diffusion of Innovations

  • With absolute open-mouthed attention to every movement and sound, daytime soap opera or commercial, she sat in rigid straight-backed motionlessness, having forgotten to even sit back.

    Time and Again

  • Gray-faced and red-eyed, Taylor Lockwood blinked in surprise at his entrance and shut off the soap opera she was watching.

    Mistress of Justice

  • The soap opera Santa Barbara wants a guy to wear a patch over one eyethere I am.

    Gladiator

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