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I am looking for an indigenous English word for women who entertained guests at social gatherings in Britain. To put it simply, I am looking for an English analogue of geisha.

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    I'm not sure Britain had an analogous geisha culture. – marcellothearcane Jul 6 at 14:18
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    Were there such women in Britain? If there were, they were called singers. And they did not spend years learning how to talk with guests. – Peter Shor Jul 6 at 15:05
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    I would call them hostesses, and the term hostess bar is quite commonly used in some parts of the world... but in the UK I am not sure there is any such profession. Courtesan is not a word you can use with a straight face. – user339660 Jul 6 at 15:41
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    Your question uses the past tense. What time period are you looking for? – shoover Jul 6 at 17:31
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    @Mitsuko I don't think the role of 芸者 is found anywhere else exactly than in Japanese culture. So you'll have to understand that other cultures might have something nearby but not capturing all the features of 芸者. To that end, what features are most important? The entertainment (music)? The personal conversation/attention? Being paid to do all this? In English (and European) culture personal attention and being paid almost necessarily means prostitute, which is not always implied by 芸者. – Mitch Jul 6 at 19:49
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There is no British equivalent to geisha. 'Polite' social gatherings in the past would have been for gentlemen and ladies; they might have included performances by professional musicians etc, but these people would not have been expected also to entertain in other ways. All-male gatherings might have invited 'ladies of easy virtue', which is why many British people assume that geisha were equivalent to prostitutes.

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