Definition of hetaera in US English:


(also hetaira)


  • A courtesan or mistress, especially one in ancient Greece akin to the modern geisha.

    • ‘The Barburen and both the Vermeers depict musical performances. Was musical skill expected of Dutch courtesans as it was of Greek hetairai; or was the women's deft play on instruments a bawdy symbol?’
    • ‘A number of the women had time to develop their minds in between flaunting their bodies, more like geisha girls, or the hetaerae of ancient Greece, than modern-day porn stars.’
    • ‘In ancient Greece female professional musicians were usually slaves and prostitutes, such as the highly educated hetairai who often sang and accompanied themselves on the lyre.’
    • ‘In the learned, Grecophile culture of the Medici pope's court, courtesans were regarded as latter-day reincarnations of hetairai, the women who entertained men at the symposium in ancient Greece.’
    • ‘This has been a traditional marketing angle in the sex industry, dating back to Roman times when the hetaerae, or foreign women, commanded the highest prices for sexual services.’
    lover, beloved, significant other
    View synonyms


From Greek hetaira, feminine of hetairos ‘companion’.