One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An actor who is a full member of the Comédie Française, Paris, and so has a share in its management and profits.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Theodore Hook (1788–1841), writer and hoaxer. From French sociétaire member of a theatre company (1792; 1798 with specifically reference to the Théâtre Français; slightly earlier denoting a member of a commercial society or of a political society) from société + -aire.
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