Definition of Ballet

"Ballet Comique de la Royne Louise, 1581."
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Ballet Comique de la Royne Louise, 1581.

What are the origins of the word ballet? Is it French or Italian?

The definition of ballet comes from the Italian.  (Most answer French at first and that’s because ballet terminology is in French, most of us quickly assume the word ballet also comes from the French language!)

Actually the word ballet comes from balletto, meaning small dance in Italian.

Dr. Giannandrea Poesio, historian and dance critic, who writes for the Royal Opera House, explains:

Definition of Ballet

Ballet: from the Italian ‘balletto’, diminutive of ‘ballo’, or ‘dance’. The term, as synonymous with a ‘small dance spectacle’ became fashionable in the second half of the 16th century, with court entertainments such as the 1573 Ballet de Polonais (ballet of the Polish Ambassadors) a seminal predecessor of the more famous Ballet Comique de la Royne.

Complete text here.

Test your knowledge of ballet terminology. Did you know the origins and definition of ballet? The first time I was asked this question I answered French!

Click the white “Share” button below and get your friends involved. What a fun way to learn more about classical ballet and it’s origins! Grazie. 🙂

Image source:
Figure 138 in Paul Lacroix, aka Bibliophile Jacob (1874). Manners, Customs, and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, available freely at Project Gutenberg.

Curious about learning more on the history and origins of ballet, it’s technique, evolution of pointe shoes and more? Click here!


  1. Cool post Romy, I also thought it was French 🙂

  2. Wow, that was a surprise! Thanks for keeping us informed on the world of ballet!

  3. Dear Romy,
    Thanks for quoting me and congratulations for the neat web page. Indeed, the French turned the word “ballet to” into ballet, some time around 1581. After all, what is traditionally and erroneously believed to be the first ballet, the Ballet Comique de la Royne, was choreographed by an Italian, Baldassarre Balatazarini do Belgioioso ( whose th effect turned promptly into Balthasar Baltasarini de Beaujouyeulx!) for the queen of France who was an Italian, Caterina die Medici (Catherine de Medicis), born and bred in my same home town, Florence. And let’s not forget that ballet terms such as “entrechat” are a very free and meaningless adaptation of the Italian “interwoven” which certainly suggest the nature of the step….
    Best wishes to you and all your readers!

    • Mr. Poesio,
      Thank you for your kind response and for sharing your vast knowledge with our readers.
      I’m continually researching and striving to learn more on the origins of ballet, which I find fascinating. And I also enjoy sharing with our readers.
      Please visit us again soon, you’re welcome always!
      -Romy Macias


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Before you go.....

Please share this post with your Facebook friends!