Definition of costume in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkɒstjuːm/


1A set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period: authentic Elizabethan costumes [mass noun]: dancers in national costume
More example sentences
  • To give a feel for what it was like at the time, there will also be a display in the library of historical data and costumes of the period.
  • Many joined shopkeepers in wearing period costumes, including authentic make up and seamed stockings.
  • The third type of attire is the national costume.
outfit, ensemble, suit;
dress, clothing, attire, garb, uniform, livery, array, regalia;
clothes, garments, robes
informal get-up, gear, togs, garms, duds, glad rags
British informal clobber, kit, strip, rig-out
North American informal threads
formal apparel
literary raiment, habiliments
archaic vestments, vesture, habit
1.1A set of clothes worn by an actor or performer for a particular role: he was in charge of costumes and scenery for plays and masques
More example sentences
  • The vivid memory of pundits chanting and amateur actors dressed in bright costumes performing on the open-air stage has stayed with me.
  • Several actors in costume assume the roles of different characters.
  • Mind you, recent history is just a new version of the old: new stage, new actors, new costumes, new masks, same old story.
1.2British A swimming costume.
Example sentences
  • You might often see females swimming wearing two costumes during training.
swimsuit, bathing suit, bathing costume, swimming costume, bikini;
pair of swimming trunks, pair of trunks
informal cossie, swimming togs
Australian informal bathers, swimmers
1.3British dated A woman’s matching jacket and skirt: a chic black costume and white fur wrap
More example sentences
  • I can't possibly describe the elaborate nature of every woman's costume or outfit.
  • The staff have made about 150 costumes for the occasion.
  • The costumes range from ethnic outfits to more abstract modernist affairs that bring to mind Picasso's involvement with the Ballet Russe.


[with object]
Dress (someone) in a particular set of clothes: an all-woman troupe elaborately costumed in clinging silver lamé
More example sentences
  • With just a few strokes of a loaded brush, he can indicate an elaborately costumed figure or the sinuous gestures of a tropical vine.
  • He accentuates this difference by costuming the lovers as a pre-Raphaelite hero and heroine in contrast to the male and female witches in modern grey business suits.
  • The dancers are costumed in extravagant gowns that they never remove: the show conveys a hint of the risqué but not more.


Early 18th century: from French, from Italian costume 'custom, fashion, habit', from Latin consuetudo (see custom).

  • custom from Middle English:

    Both custom and costume (early 18th century) come from the same root, Latin consuetudo ‘custom, habit’—costume was originally the decor and clothing appropriate to a painting with a historical theme. A customer (Late Middle English) was a person who habitually bought from a particular tradesman, and customs (Late Middle English) were payments traditionally made to a lord or king.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: cos|tume

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