Today, the word burlesque is mostly associated with those exaggerated theatre shows that often feature stripteases, and it can also refer to a mockery by caricature or a literary or dramatic parody. But when it was first borrowed into English in the middle of the seventeenth century, the word was an adjective meaning "grotesque" or "comical", and it eventually evolved to just represent burlesque works of art or writing. The word was taken from Italian burlesco, which literally meant "joke-like", with burla being an Italian word for "joke" or "prank". Burla is thought to be from Late Latin burra, which meant "nonsense" but more literally translates to "wool garment" (also the source of the word bureau, curiously enough), because those were considered trivial for some reason.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.