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Senior Member
Today I saw the word "artiste" in an article and have checked its meaning and pronounciation. I found it's very closed to the word "artist". My question is: is that possible for you to call a person both an "artiste" and an "artist", for example, a great comedian? In what degree this two words would be interchangeable?
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Artiste is usually applied to an actor, singer, dancer, or other public performer. Artiste is used to distinguish an artist (commonly = someone who paints) from a performing artist.

    artiste:1823, from Fr. artiste, a reborrowing of artist after the sense of artist had become limited toward the visual arts and especially painting.


    Senior Member
    American English
    I've only ever heard it as an insult. "Jimmy is so aloof and pretentious now that he got cast in the school play; he thinks he's such an artiste."


    Senior Member
    American English
    To be more direct than my previous post: in my experience, artiste = "pretentious bastard who has something to do with art in some form." Obviously PaulQ's experience is different. Whether this is due to the AE/BE difference, or whether I just know more pretentious bastards, remains to be seen. :D


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I (AE), too, regard "artiste" as another example of usage by pompous, pretentious and affected people who use and often fracture the French language in the ridiculous expectation that it make them sound superior.


    Senior Member
    English English
    I've noticed in recent years (decades) that the useful word artiste is disappearing from BrE. Nowadays everyone's an artist:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    For example, I was sitting gawping at the TV just now when a trailer came on which went something like this:
    Tonight, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we'll be celebrating one of the greatest artists of the 20th century ...
    [ooh, I thought (being interested in art as I am), this sounds interesting, I wonder who it can be ~ Picasso? no, too young ... Dali? maybe ...]
    Yes tonight we'll be looking back at the career of ... Frank Sinatra

    [Sinatra wasn't an
    artist, you morons, he was an artiste! I yelled pointlessly at the TV]

    I for one still religiously distinguish between the two: artist = 'someone who creates art', artiste = 'someone who performs, though not always as badly as F. Sinatra'.

    Just thought I'd mention it.

    P.S. I wasn't aware of the AmE meaning until I read this thread:cool:


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I don't know why, but when I see the word "artiste" I always think of acrobats, high-wire walkers, and other circus performers.


    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, I'd definitely call them (circus) artistes:thumbsup: but it definitely applies ~ for me ~ to general purpose singers and 'all-round entertainers' too, and, as Rover said [#7] is entirely neutral in tone:)

    Mind you, I still insist on calling lady-actors actresses, Beijing Peking, etc. etc.:cool:


    English U.S.
    I think this must be an AmE/BrE difference. And one I wasn't aware of.

    Because I agree with the other Americans who have posted saying that calling someone an "artiste" is a way to mock his/her (unjustified) pretensions. I have trouble imagining the word being used any other way in American English.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I've always considered "artiste" to be pretentious, because it looks and sounds French. Using foreign or foreign-sounding words somehow enhances the bullshit factor.
    When I play a musical instrument, I do it for enjoyment and for the love of music (which is an art), and I consider myself an artist on the grounds that I practise art. I would not consider myself to be a mere entertainer.

    Perhaps when entertainers deliver their pieces of entertainment to the uncultured masses, we should think of them as "piece artistes". :D


    Senior Member
    English English
    When I play a musical instrument, I do it for enjoyment and for the love of music (which is an art), and I consider myself an artist on the grounds that I practise art. I would not consider myself to be a mere entertainer.
    I'd only call you an artiste if you did it professionally, Eburgher. You sound to me more like a music-lover. Not all artistes are music-lovers: look at Bob Dylan.


    Senior Member
    British English
    The essence of being an "artist" is creativity.
    "Artists" create/make things such as paintings and pottery.
    Most "artists" create things that last many years.
    They often work in isolation/seclusion and put only the final result on public display.
    An artist's work is essentially their own, not collaborative, and (preferably!) not excessively derivative.

    The essence of being an "artiste" is performance.
    "Artistes" do not make things.
    Their performances have a duration (usually minutes), but at the end of the performance nothing exists
    Recordings of their performances are produced by someone else - eg sound engineers, not artistes.
    They often work in groups (eg a band or troupe). They usually perform in public.
    They often perform pieces crated by others (eg musicians performing orchestral pieces).

    The performance of an artiste may have very little to do with art.
    Someone who performs juggling or sword swallowing is probably very skilled, but I would not call it art.

    Attributing pomposity to those who prefer to distinguish between artist and artiste is in itself both pompous and lacking discernment, in my opinion.
    Linkway, it's useful for readers to see what the terms connote to you. They should also be aware that some of your proposed distinction is at variance with the Oxford dictionaries (and even more clearly several noted American ones). Oxford does recognize that 'entertainer' is generally implied for the latter, however, one main Oxford definition of the former clearly is wide enough to include the latter.

    1.1A person who practises or performs any of the creative arts, such as a sculptor, film-maker, actor, or dancer.[...]
    • ‘I believe our filmmakers, writers, poets, and visual and performing artists do us proud, alongside those of anywhere in the world.’

    There is an article on the topic that generally reaches the conclusions I've stated; 'performer' is generally entailed, esp. for tax purposes, but the definition of 'artist' is broad, and if not inclusive, at least overlapping,

    Who is an artiste.pdf - RePub

    {The article is concerned with tax policy but looks at definitions including the following for 'artiste'}

    [start quote]
    “An artist, especially an actor, singer, dancer, or other public
    performer” – Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (2d
    ed., Random House, New York, 1999);
    [end quote]
    {Bennymix, further}

    The article makes the further point that even if 'artiste' is generally connected to performance, there is going to be overlap in the reference of the two terms. For example (mine), Marina Abramovic is typically labelled a 'performance artist'. She would not fit most of your proposed characteristics of an artist. She is labeled such in the Guardian, for example, at

    Performance artist Marina Abramović: 'I was ready to die'

    Performance artist Marina Abramović: 'I was ready to die'
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