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The Spanish word bolero has been adopted into English with two separate, though related, meanings. These are distinguished by different pronunciations.

  • The basic meaning is of a dance, or the associated music. This is pronounced similarly to its original Spanish realization: 'bol-AIR-oh', IPA: /bə (or ɒ) ˈler əʊ/ (although Byron, always jocular with rhyme, makes it 'bol-EER-oh' /bə (or ɒ) ˈliːr əʊ/ to rhyme with 'hero').
The composition Boléro by Ravel became famous in the UK when it was used by the skaters (Jayne) Torvill and (Christopher) Dean in 1984 when they won the gold medal for ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Other Boleros have been written by Chopin, Debussy and Bizet (in the opera Carmen), among others.
  • The name of the dance has been used for a garment characteristically used for such: a short jacket, sometimes (particularly in American English) known as a shrug, which has one or no fastening. It usually has, but does not necessarily have, sleeves. This garment is an imitation of the chaquetilla jacket, or waistcoat, worn by bullfighters. This meaning of bolero is best pronounced in RP with the stress on the first syllable, 'BOLL-er-oh', IPA: /ˈbɒl ər əʊ/, although there are those who pronounce it in the same way as the dance.