Ballet Glossary

Have you ever wondered what is the language spoken during your ballet classes? And maybe felt a bit lost? Well, that’s because all ballet movements are spoken in French which can make picking up the steps quite tricky. We thought it could be helpful for you to have access to a ballet glossary explaining each ballet movement with its meaning in English. And hopefully, you’ll never feel lost in class again!


Á terre : On the ground/floor

Adage : a slow, soft, sustained movement

Arabesque : represents the shape of a bow/a position on one leg, the other in 4th opposite 1st à terre or en l’air

Assemblé : Assemble/join together

Attitude : A position standing on one leg with the other bent at an angle behind, en l’air

Ballonné : To bounce

Battement : To beat (a movement with a closing action)

Chassé : To slide

Coupé : Cut/to cut the weight of the body from one foot to the other

Croisé : Crossed to the audience (front)

De coté : Facing the side

Demi : Half

Demi : Half a turn towards the back foot

Derrière : To the back

Devant : To the front

Developpé : To unfold


Echappé : To escape (a jump or relevé from 1st, 3rd or 5th to 2nd or 4th and returning)

En arrière : Travelling backwards

En avant : Travelling forwards

En croix : In the shape of a cross

En dedans : Inwards

En dehors : Outwards

En face : Facing the audience

En l’air : In the air

Enchaînement : chain of steps/linking of two or more steps together

Épaulement : Use of the shoulders with one shoulder forward the other back, the head over the front shoulder. The turn occurs across the upper back

Fondu : Melt/a bend on the supporting leg

Frappé : To strike (like lighting a match on the floor)

Glissade : To glide

Grand : Large

Jeté : To throw

Ouvert : Open


Pas de basque : A step from the Basque country representing the swirl of a skirt

Pas de bourrée : Small running steps/consisting of three movements 5th, 2nd, 5th.

Pas de chat : Step of the cat, a jump from 5th to 5th with an overlapping action with each leg bending and unfurling, one after the other

Passé : To pass

Petit : Small

Pirouette : A spin on one leg

Plié : To bend

Port de bras : Carriage of the arms (a controlled movement of the arms)

Posé : To step (onto a straight leg)

Relevé : Rise/a snatching of the feet

Retiré : To draw up (the supporting leg)

Rond de jambe : Circle of the leg (circle the leg like a protractor on the floor from 0 degrees to either 90 or 180)

Sauté : To spring

Sissonne : A scissor movement from two feet onto one foot

Soubresaut : A single jump without change

Soutenu : To sustain (a turning action revolving the feet, either traveling or on the spot)

Sur le cou-de-pied : On the neck of the foot

Temps levé : To hop (a jump taking off and landing on the same foot)

Tendu : To stretch (an extending action of the leg, à terre with a return closing action)