Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Mae West from The Chambers Dictionary

an airman's inflatable life jacket, used in World War II. [From its supposed resemblance, when inflated, to the figure of the American film star of that name (1892–1980)]


Summary Article: West, Mae
from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

(born Aug. 17, 1893, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.—died Nov. 22, 1980, Los Angeles, Calif.) U.S. film actress. She performed with a Brooklyn stock company c. 1901, and by 1907 she had become a performer on the national vaudeville circuit. She made her Broadway debut as a singer and dancer in 1911. In 1926 she began to write, produce, and star in her own Broadway plays, including the sensation-creating Sex (1926), Diamond Lil (1928), and The Constant Sinner (1931), productions that mired her in legal battles. Her frank sensuality, regal postures, and suggestive wisecracks became her trademarks in popular movies such as I’m No Angel (1933), She Done Him Wrong (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), and My Little Chickadee (1940). In World War II, Allied soldiers called their inflatable life jackets “Mae Wests” in honour of her hourglass figure. Her films were revived in the 1960s, and she appeared in Myra Breckinridge (1970) and Sextette (1979).

Birth Place: New York City, New York, United States

Death Place: Los Angeles, California, United States

Name: West, Mae or Mae West

Gender: female

Nationality: American

Activity: American actress and writer

Keywords: theatrical production, American, “My Little Chickadee”, “Night After Night”, screenwriting, “Diamond Lil”, acting, New York City, Los Angeles, vaudeville, dramatic literature, “Klondike Annie”, “Sex”, “Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It”, autobiography, “I’m No Angel”, “She Done Him Wrong”, Mae West, West, Mae, “Sextette”, motion picture, New York, American literature, producing, television, “Constant Sinner, The”, “Myra Breckinridge”, “Belle of the Nineties”, California

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Copyright 1994-2017 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc

Related Articles


Full text Article West, Mae 1893 - 1980
The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English

American sex icon of stage and film whose verbal wit was integral to her magnificent creation , 'the Mae West character'. Born in...

Full text Article West, Mae (1893 - 1980)
The Cambridge Guide to Theatre

A vaudeville headliner by 1911, she achieved notoriety in the lead role of her first play Sex (1926), in which she was...

Full text Article West, Mae
Philip's Encyclopedia

1893-1980 US stage and film actress. She began her career in burlesque. Her first film was Night After Night (1932). Her overt sexuality and...

See more from Credo