Definition of cancan in English:



  • A lively, high-kicking stage dance originating in 19th-century Parisian music halls and performed by women in long skirts and petticoats.

    ‘people were dancing the cancan’
    as modifier ‘cancan dancers’
    • ‘Another historic reference is made in Act III where the Neapolitan Dance becomes a cancan.’
    • ‘The author juxtaposes the earthy unbound cancan dancer of the Folies Bergére and Moulin Rouge to the Romantic Era ideal of the pale tightly corseted woman of ‘normal ‘society.’’
    • ‘I mean, who knew that the French cancan had revolutionary roots, and the dance is coded, physically coded?’
    • ‘Opening June 1 nationwide and slated to kick off next month's Cannes Film Festival, Moulin Rouge stars Nicole Kidman and depicts the cancan and cabaret world of Paris in 1899.’
    • ‘From the riot of colour of the cancan dancers' skirts, to the outrageous gear worn by Toulouse-Lautrec, costume creates visual excitement.’
    • ‘Entertainment includes cancan dancers and the music of Jerry Atwood and Sharon Montgomery.’
    • ‘For example, when straightening your legs in cancan or crisscross, imagine reaching your toes as far away from you as you can, as if to touch an imaginary wall.’
    • ‘The colours on her paintbrushes merged into her cancan dress, giving it a tie-dye appearance.’
    • ‘Women have been condemned for dancing the cancan and the waltz.’
    • ‘Ben Nicolodi, the male solo dancer in the cancan, was an acrobat when he first entered the club.’
    • ‘The Bluebell Girls - one of the last remaining companies to dance the traditional cancan - still perform at the Lido, on the Champs-Elysees.’
    • ‘Red Picotee, a scarlet variety with a white fringe, makes me think of the cancan, all high spirits and to hell with good taste.’
    • ‘The big numbers included, of course, the cancan, but also a Viennese waltz scene with the dancers in flowing ballroom gowns and a big, big finale, with ostrich-plume headwear and sequinned costumes.’
    • ‘Assuming center stage like a troupe of cancan dancers, they expose enormous legs beneath vibrant, Pucci-patterned miniskirts that recall Nixon-era fashions.’
    • ‘The cancan, that high kicking, exuberant dance of showgirls, originated in Le Moulin Rouge during the 1890s.’
    • ‘No expense is spared in an elaborate opening cancan number that makes an anachronistic use of today's popular music.’
    • ‘But his most impactful display here must surely have been the unofficial exhibition that took place in the London streets when his cheeky posters for touring troupes of French cancan dancers were pasted up.’
    • ‘Founded in 1932, the Bluebell Girls are one of the last remaining companies to dance the traditional cancan, with its flying kicks and punishing splits.’


Mid 19th century: from French, child's word for canard ‘duck’, from Old French caner ‘to quack’.