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

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

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What does the word travesty mean?

According to Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word travesty (pronounced trævəsti)  is a noun that is something that does not represent the qualities that are intended, often in a way that is shocking or offensive. For example, a bad ruling by a judge could be considered a travesty of justice. This grotesque imitation or inferior imitation could be considered a farce comedy, or it could be considered highly offensive. For example, someone might consider the musical The Book of Mormon to be a travesty mocking religion while others find it a smart commentary on religion. Travesty is often subjective. 

Words that mean travesty can also be found in many other languages. You may notice that some of these translations look very similar to the word travesty. This is likely because they are from a similar root. Often, words of a similar root will look and sound similarly or be cognates to each other. The below word lists of translations is provided by Google Translate and Word Sense.

  • Korean: 희화
  • Portuguese: travesti
  • Spanish: parodia
  • French: travestir
  • Italian: parodia
  • Chinese – Mandarin
  • Arabic: مهزلة
  • Swedish: travesti
  • German: Travestie
  • Czech: travestie‎ (fem.)
  • Finnish: irvikuva‎
  • Hungarian: megcsúfolás‎

What is the origin of the word travesty?

According to Etymonline, the word travesty has been used since the 1670s to refer to a literary burlesque of some serious work. This comes from the adjective meaning of tevesty which has been used since the 1660s to mean ridiculous or parodied. This comes from the french travesti meaning dressed in disguise, which is the past participle of travestir, meaning to disguise. Travestir has been sued since the 1590s. This comes from the Italian travestire meaning to disguise, which stems from the Latin trans meaning across and the Latin vestire meaning to clothe. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European root wes. Related words include travestying and travestied.

How can the word travesty be used in a sentence?

There are many different ways in which the word travesty can be used in a sentence. This is a very versatile word that one will commonly hear. In this first example, Ellie and Jackson’s daughter Lynn just finished her production of Annie. She comes out to greet her parents.

Lynn: Mom! Dad! Did you like the show?

Jackson: It was great, sweetheart.

Ellie: You played an amazing orphan! 

Lynn: Thanks! I’m going to go get changed and take my makeup off. See you in a bit!

[Lynn runs off.]

Jackson: That was the worst play you’ve ever seen, wasn’t it?

Ellie: An absolute travesty. The girl who played Miss Hannigan could barely talk! The little boy who played the dog spoke more than she did!

Here, Jackson and Ellie refer to the play as a travesty. While the students in the show tried to put on a good production, it ended up as a farcical representation of Annie. In this next example, Jackson and Ellie are watching the morning news.

Jackson: Did you hear? That murder trial is over.

Ellie: Really? Did they convict the guy?

Jackson: Nope. He got acquitted. Despite all the evidence, he got out on a loophole. No consequences at all.

Ellie: Wow. It’s truly a travesty of justice.

Jackson: I know. 

Here, Ellie uses the word travesty to describe the results of the trial. She believes it is a travesty because the man who they believe to have committed the crimes is walking free with no consequences. In this final example, Lynn has made her own halloween costume.

Lynn: Mom, Dad, do you like it?!

Jackson: Of course, honey! It looks great! You’re a… a banana?

Lynn: Dad, no! I’m a flower fairy! Duh!

Ellie: Yeah, dad. Get with the times.

[Lynn runs off.]

Jackson: Sorry, she looks like a banana. Am I wrong?

Ellie: Not entirely. It’s a travesty of a flower fairy, but who am I to say?

Here Ellie uses the word travesty to imply that Lynn’s homemade costume is a poor misrepresentation of what she had intended to create.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word travesty?

There are a plethora of different words that one can use in place of the word travesty. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary or if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word travesty is provided by Thesaurus.

  • exaggeration
  • caricature
  • roast
  • send-up
  • mockery
  • parody
  • ridicule
  • lampoonery
  • play
  • distortion
  • spoof
  • satire
  • burlesque
  • mock
  • lampoon
  • takeoff
  • farce
  • mimicry
  • perversion
  • put-on
  • sham

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word travesty. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word travesty is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • sobriety
  • gravity
  • humorlessness
  • seriousness
  • staidness
  • thoughtfulness
  • intentness
  • calmness
  • serious-mindedness
  • solemnity
  • earnest
  • sober-mindedness
  • earnestness
  • sternness
  • coolness
  • sedateness
  • sincerity

Overall, the word travesty is a noun that refers to something that does not represent the qualities it is intending to represent. This is often done in a way that is shocking or offensive. The word travesty is of Latin origin. Its Latin roots provide us with many other words in the English language.