The word entertain is derived from Middle English entretenement, a compound of Old French entre (to enter) and tenere (to hold). It has evolved to have the sense of “agreeable occupation for the mind” or “diversion or amusement,” such as the pleasure of solving the daily crossword puzzle.

It can also refer to the hospitable provision of food, drink, and other amenities for guests. It can be adapted to suit a variety of audiences, from one person who selects his or her private entertainment from an endless array of pre-recorded products, to banquets that serve thousands; and to performances designed for a global audience. In addition to amusement, entertainments can be aimed at more serious objectives such as education, morality, or public service.