Ballet Terms Definitions

Because ballet became formalized in France, A significant part of the ballet terminology is in the French language.

Because French is not an easy language, we sometimes battle to remember what the ballet terms definitions mean. Some of the ballet terms definitions will have links so that you can read more about the steps.

Here is a list of all the more popular ballet terms definitions.

Aballet terms definitions

A la seconde – The working leg is held to the side of the body in 2nd position

A la Quatrieme – One of the directions of the body, facing the audience (en face), arms in second position, with one leg extended either to fourth position in front (quatrième devant) or fourth position behind (quatrième derrière).

A terre – touching the floor

Adage – Slow controlled movements of balance same as Adagio

Adagio – Slow movements performed with grace and fluidity

Allegro – Lively, fast or brisk, normally used in airborne movements or steps of elevation

Allonge – Stretched out or made longer.

Aplomb – Elegance, confidence.

Arabesque – Dancer stands on one leg with the other leg out behind the body held straight. Long lines are shown from the finger tips to the tip of the extended toe

Arriere – moving backwards

Assemble – To assemble. A jump where the legs meet together in the air before landing

A Terre – Touching the floor

Attitude – Dancer stands on one leg and the other is up bent at  90 degrees, either to the front, back or side

Avant – Forwards or front


Balance – To rock. The dancer will alternate their weight from foot to foot

Ballerina – Used to be a title given to the principal dancer in the company

Ballet – Classical style of expressive dancing with gestures and movements of grace and fluidity

Balletomane – Someone who loves ballet

Ballet Barre Stretches – A series of stretches done at the barre

Ballon – Bounce

Battement Tendu – Stretched beating

Barre – A wooden bar attached to the wall that dancers use to strengthen their work and warm up on

Battement – Beating

Battement Fondu – Bending exercise at the bar where both legs bend and stretch together.

Battement Frappe – To strike or knock

Brise – Broken or breaking.  It is a jump and the working leg brushes to the second position and meets the other leg in front of or behind in the air. Finally both feet land in fifth position. This is similar to an assemblé but traveling


Cambre – Arched. Usually bending and stretching to the front, side or back, or in a circular motion.Corps de Ballet – Ballet dancers who dance in a group

Corps de Ballet – Ballet dancers who dance in a group

Chaines – Chains or links. Usually a series of turns

Changement – Change of feet. Normally happens in a jump where the feet are changed in the air

Coupe – To Cut

Cote – Sideways

Couru – Running sideways

Croise – Crossed


Danse – Dance

Dedans – Inwards

Degage – Disengage. The dancer moves her leg away from the supporting leg with foot pointed on the floor and leg stretched

Dehors – Outwards

Demi – Half

Derriere – Behind or Back

Dessous – Under

Dessus – Over

Deux – Two

Devant – Front

Developpe – To unfold

Diagonale – Diagonal


Ecarte – Separated or thrown wide apart. Normally an open line facing a corner with the leg pointed in second and the front arm lifted with head turned to front corner

Echappe – To escape

Efface – Shaded

Entrechat – Interweaving or braiding

Epaulement – Position of the shoulders


Fondu – Bend one leg or melting

Frappe – Struck. The foot strikes the floor as it extends out

Fouette – Whipped. Describes the quick whipping action of the dancers leg

Flic-Flac – Crack of a whip. It describes a ballet dancer “flicking” a foot on the ground and around the standing leg, then another quick hit of the floor to arrive in a coupe position


Gargouillade – Rumbling. A dancer points one leg to the side, then doing a small rond de jambe with that leg while pushing off the floor with the other leg and then doing a rond de jambe with that leg

Grande -Big

Grand Rond de Jambe – Taking the leg around off of the floor

Glissade – Glide

Grand Battement – The leg goes up with force either to the front, side or back and is controlled on the way down.


Haut, en – high

Hortensia – A male dancer’s step in which the dancer jumps into the air with the legs drawn up, one in front of the other, then reverses their position several times before landing with the feet apart again. This step almost looks like swimming in air.


Jete – Throw or Thrown


Maneges – Circles. Dancer does a circular pattern around the stage

Mazurka – Polish Character Dance


Ouvert – Open


Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied – Little beating on the neck of the foot

Plie – To bend or fold

Port de Bras – Carriage of the Arms

Pas de Chat – Step of a cat

Pas de Cheval – Step of a Horse

Penche – Leaning

Pied – Foot


Quatre – Four

Quatriem – Fourth


Raccourci – Shortened

Releve – Raised

Retire – To draw – drawing of the toe up the calf to the knee

Ronds de Jambe – round the leg

Ronds de Jambe en l’Air – The working foot does an oval action from the side of the knee and out to 2nd at 45 degrees


Saute – Jump or jumping

Split – A configuration of the legs extended in opposite directions

Sur Les Cou-de-Pied – On the neck of the foot

Sur Les Pointes – On the points or on tips of dancers toes


Temps Lie – Linked – transfer of weight from one leg to the other

Temps Leve – Time raised is the literal meaning, but in ballet it is a hop on one foot

Tutu – A classical ballet full circle short skirt

Turnout – The rotation of the legs in the hip socket


Variation – A solo dance

The list is endless and I will keep adding to these ballet terms definitions.ballet terms definitions