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Popular music singer Whitney Houston is often described as an "ultimate diva" by media. Whitney Houston Welcome Home Heroes 1 cropped.jpg
Popular music singer Whitney Houston is often described as an "ultimate diva" by media.

A diva ( /ˈdvə/ ; Italian:  [ˈdiːva] ) is the Latin word for a goddess and can also refer to a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. If referring to an actress the meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna . Diva can also refer to anyone, especially one in show business, with a reputation for being temperamental or demanding.



The word entered the English language in the late 19th century. It is derived from the Italian noun diva, a female deity. The plural of the word in English is "divas"; in Italian, dive [ˈdiːve] . The basic sense of the term is goddess , [3] [4] the feminine of the Latin word divus (Italian divo), someone deified after death, or Latin deus , a god. [5]

The male form divo exists in Italian and is usually reserved for the most prominent leading tenors, like Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli. The Italian term divismo describes the star-making system in the film industry. In contemporary Italian, diva and divo simply denote much-admired celebrities, especially film actresses and actors, and can be translated as "(film) star". The Italian actress Lyda Borelli is considered the first cinematic diva, following her breakthrough role in Love Everlasting (1913). [6]

An extravagant admiration for divas is a common element of camp culture. [7]

Modern usage

See also

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  1. "Whitney Houston: The diva who had – and lost – it all". The Independent . February 13, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  2. "Whitney Houston: Death of a pop diva". The Washington Post . February 12, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  3. "diva | Origin and meaning of diva by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com.
  4. TIME magazine observed in its October 21, 2002, issue: "By definition, a diva was originally used for great female opera singers, almost always sopranos."
  5. Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera
  6. Doane p.125
  7. "Vamps, camps and archetypes: gay men, the diva phenomenon and the inner feminine" Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine by Andrew Milnes (2002)