Word of the Day


© EyeEm
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a woman who performs in ballets, especially as her job

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun ballerina is borrowed from Italian. It has been used in English since the 18th century.


Today is World Ballet Day, a global celebration of the art form. We wrote about ballet and the language associated with it last year, so this year it’s the turn of ballerina. The word, which is of Italian origin unlike much ballet terminology, evokes an image of a graceful young woman wearing a tutu. Just such an image was used on a recent poster that was widely distributed and then swiftly withdrawn as those responsible realized it was not sending the message they intended. The poster, showing a young dancer called ‘Fatima’ lacing up her ballet shoes, bore the words: ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (she just doesn’t know it yet)’ [the punctuation is theirs.] The image and the message, part of a series designed to encourage people to ‘rethink, reskill [and] reboot’ by training for a new career in cybersecurity, provoked widespread criticism for showing a tone deaf attitude to the problems currently faced by people working in the arts and ignoring the years of hard work and dedication they have put into their chosen careers. Even worse, it then turned out that the dancer portrayed was not called Fatima at all; rather the photo was of a young American from Atlanta, Desire’e Kelley. The image, cropped from a photo by Krys Alex, was used legitimately but without the consent of the photographer or the subjects, adding insult to injury and leading the Culture Secretary to describe it as ‘crass‘.


When I was growing up, I dreamed about becoming a cowgirl, a detective, a spy, a great actress, or a ballerina. Not a dentist, like my father, or a homemaker, like my mother – and certainly not a writer, although I always loved to read.
(Judy Blume)

“I think it’s never too late to start anything, except maybe being a ballerina.”
(Wendy Liebman)

Related words

corps de ballet, prima ballerina, dancer

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment