Definition of costume in English:

Share this entry



Pronunciation: /ˈkäsˌt(y)o͞om/
1A set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period: authentic Elizabethan costumes children in national costume singing folk music
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, garments, (set of) clothes, ensemble;
dress, clothing, attire, garb, uniform, livery
informal getup, gear, togs, threads
formal apparel
archaic habit, habiliments, raiment
1.1A set of clothes worn by an actor or other performer for a particular role or by someone attending a masquerade: a nun’s costume
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.
1.2A set of clothes, especially a woman’s ensemble, for a particular occasion or purpose; an outfit.
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.


Pronunciation: /käsˈt(y)o͞om/
Pronunciation: /ˈkäst(y)o͞om/
Pronunciation: /ˈkästəm/
[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 custume '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

Syllabification: cos·tume

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.