Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a formal dance where people wear masks and dress as famous people or characters

2.  a party where people dress as different characters

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun masquerade was first used in English in the late 16th century. It is a borrowing from the French ‘mascarade‘ and Italian ‘mascherata’ meaning ‘masked entertainment’. The verb dates from the late 17th century.


Today is the last day of the Notting Hill carnival, an annual street festival held in the eponymous district of London. Every year since 1966 the streets of this area of west London have been filled with the sights, sounds, smells and flavours of a Caribbean carnival, with parades, bands, and a party atmosphere that last year attracted up to two million people to the area. The event always takes place around the August bank holiday, unlike traditional carnivals elsewhere which mark the beginning of Lent. The parades are accompanied by bands playing music such as reggae, dub and salsa, and participants wear gorgeous flamboyant costumes in the Caribbean tradition of masquerade. Participants in carnival masquerade, often shortened to mas, traditionally wore costumes depicting figures from Caribbean and African folklore, although today many prefer the showier bikini-based costumes covered with beads and sequins and topped with a feathered headdress.


“The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.”
(Cesare Pavese)

“And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.”
(Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy)

Related words

ball, masked ball, carnival, parade

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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