1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vaudeville

VAUDEVILLE, a term now generally given to a musical drama of a light, humorous or comic description interspersed with songs and dances. In English usage “vaudeville” is practically synonymous with what is more generally known as “musical comedy,” but in America it is applied also to a music-hall variety entertainment. This modern sense is developed from the French vaudeville of the 18th century, a popular form of light dramatic composition, consisting of pantomime, dances, songs and dialogue, written in couplets. It is generally accepted that the word is to be identified with vau-de-vire, the name given to the convivial songs of the 15th century. This name originated with a literary association known as the “Compagnons Gattois,” i.e. “boon companions” or “gay comrades” in the valley of the Vire and Virène in Normandy. The most famous of the authors of these songs was Olivier Basselin (q.v.). When in the 17th century the term had become applied to topical, satiric verses current in the towns, it was corrupted into its present form, either from à vau le ville, or voix de ville.