The Meaning of Risqué: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of risqué? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word risqué, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word risque mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the word risque – sometimes spelled with an accent mark as risqué – is an adjective that describes something that is close to being indelicate or improper. This word is pronounced ˈrɪskeɪ, with the emphasis on the second syllable. This word comes from French and is borrowed into the English language to differentiate it from the word risky. Risqué is more often used in sexual situations, such as a risqué joke that might be inappropriate for an office environment or a risque story you wouldn’t tell around your family. The word risque suggests sexual impropriety and indecency, or spicy gossip. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean risqué. You may notice that some of these words look similar or the same as the word risqué. These cognates are often formed when two words or languages have the same root word or language of origin. This list of translations is provided by Word Sense

  • Bokmål: vovet‎, ekvivokk‎, dristig‎
  • Portuguese: malicioso‎
  • Spanish: subido de tono‎, sugerente‎
  • French: risqué‎ (masc.), osé‎ (masc.)
  • German: schlüpfrig‎, gewagt‎
  • Swedish: ekivok‎, vågad‎

What is the origin of the word risque?

According to Etymonline, the word risque has been used since 1867 and comes directly from the French risqué. This is the past participle of risquer, a French verb that means to risk. Risquer stems from the Italian riscare, meaning to run into danger. Related words include risky, risk, and others.

How can the word risque be used in a sentence?

The word risque can be used in a variety of different scenarios and sentences to describe things that are indecent or improper. In this first example, Mark is called into the human resources department after an off-color joke at the holiday party.

Human Resources: Mark, I am sure you know why I am here.

Mark: Is this about my joke at the holiday party? Come on, everyone knows it was just a joke. Some jokes are a little risque, is that really so bad?

Human Resources: Mark, first of all, this is an office. Risque humor is not tolerated. Second, the joke was more than risque, it was outright offensive. Please clean out your desk and be out by the end of the day.

Mark: Are you kidding me?

Here, Mark describes his joke as risque, implying that it was a bit off-color, but still bordering on office-appropriate. Human resources disagrees and believes the joke was offensive. In this next example, Lily and her friend Maggie are going shopping for Lily’s first Valentine’s Day with her new boyfriend. She tries on some racy clothing.

Lily: I’m not sure about this one.

Maggie: What are you talking about? You look amazing!

Lily: Don’t you think it’s a little risque?

Maggie: Lily, it’s lingerie that you’re going to wear on Valentine’s Day to have sex with your boyfriend. It’s supposed to be risque!

Lily: Shh! People are going to hear you!

Maggie: We’re in a lingerie shop! They all know!

Here, Lily is worried about her clothing being too risque. Maggie believes that is the whole point of buying the clothing. The word risque can be used in many different ways to describe things that are bordering on indecent, whether literally or figuratively. This is a versatile word that usually has sexual connotations, and can be used in many different situations in the English language. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word risque?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word risque. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself as well as if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word risqué is provided by Thesaurus.

  • libidinous
  • wicked
  • mature
  • suggestive
  • lewd
  • blue
  • racy
  • immodest
  • off-color
  • salty
  • bawdy
  • seductive
  • shady
  • earthy
  • indelicate
  • broad
  • kissable
  • lurid
  • slinky
  • indecent
  • improper
  • provocative
  • purple
  • voluptuous
  • spicy
  • inviting
  • sexy
  • flirtatious
  • provoking
  • arousing
  • sensuous
  • naughty
  • titillating
  • cuddly
  • steamy
  • tempting
  • ribald
  • erotic
  • hot
  • come-hither
  • sensual
  • scabrous
  • prurient
  • unseemly
  • smutty
  • obscene
  • rude

There are also a number of words that mean the opposite of the word risqué. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another easy way to work on expanding your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word risqué is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  overmodest
  • sedate
  • impotent
  • prudish
  • prim
  • stuffy
  • diffident
  • moral
  • bashful
  • puritanical
  • modest
  • clean
  • artificial
  • Victorian
  • austere
  • wholesome
  • proper
  • unstained
  • squeamish
  • retiring
  • stainless
  • affected
  • unassured
  • overnice
  • simpering
  • skittish
  • precise
  • overexact
  • intemerate
  • simple
  • demure
  • close
  • bigoted
  • inexperienced
  • unwed
  • square
  • chaste
  • narrow
  • straitlaced
  • rigid
  • subdued
  • earnest
  • unassuming
  • finicky
  • severe
  • prissy
  • elegant
  • staid
  • innocent
  • decorous
  • stern
  • pure
  • controlled
  • reticent
  • silent
  • pretentious
  • undefiled
  • virtuous
  • celibate
  • shy
  • immaculate
  • nice
  • starchy
  • decent
  • virginal
  • unsullied
  • restrained
  • platonic
  • mincing
  • unaffected
  • uncorrupt
  • solemn
  • neat
  • genteel
  • offish
  • narrow-minded
  • spotless
  • unblemished
  • stilted
  • serious
  • unassertive
  • backward
  • uptight
  • strait-laced
  • timid
  • conventional
  • scrupulous
  • uncontaminated
  • rigorous
  • refined
  • monogamous
  • coy
  • illiberal
  • stiff
  • fastidious
  • priggish
  • sober
  • quiet
  • vestal
  • continent
  • blushing
  • humble

Overall, the word risque is an adjective borrowed from French that describes something indecent or improper. This usually has a sexual connotation, and can be used to describe things both literally and figuratively, form an article of clothing to a joke. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today!