Word: thespian

Pronunciation: THES-pee-ən

Part of Speech: adjective; noun


  1. (adj.) of or relating to drama and the theater
  2. (n.) an actor or actress

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Rango: [disguised as a woman] Good sir! Gracious good afternoon to thee and thee and thee! May I present, Madam Lupone’s Terpsichorean Troupe of Traveling Thespians!

Balthazar: What is that?

Ezekiel: I think they’s thespians!

Balthazar: Thespians? That’s illegal in seven states!

Rango (2011)

Okay, I admit I may have laughed a little too hard at this line when I first watched Rango a few years ago, but that may just be because I wasn’t expecting such a subtle adult joke to be slipped into what’s supposed to be a children’s movie. But then again, I should hardly have been surprised, since by then the film had already pushed the PG rating to the limit several times over. In this scene, Rango and his posse attempt to ambush the Inbred Rodents (yes, really) by posing as a theater troupe and putting on a show for them. The blind patriarch wonders aloud what’s going on, only to hilariously misunderstand his son’s answer. Sounds like he was expecting something entirely different from a group of “thespians”!

Anything described as “thespian” relates to the theatrical arts, while a “thespian” is an actor or actress. The word arose in the late 17th century and derives from the Greek name Thespis. This was the name of a Greek dramatic poet from the 6th century BC who is considered the founder of Greek tragedy.

According to Ancient Greek sources, including Aristotle, Thespis was the original actor, the first person to ever play a character on stage. It makes sense, therefore, that a word meaning “actor” would derive from his name. It may be worth noting that Oxford Dictionaries classify the word “thespian” as “formal humorous”, which may limit its use to more comedic contexts, though I suppose that call is left to the writer’s discretion. If your stories are full of actors and actresses, “thespian” would certainly make a great addition to your vocabulary!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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