A levee is an embankment, like a dam, constructed to prevent the overflow of a body of water. It can also mean a formal reception. How do these two words relate? Read on…
In French, lever means to lift and se lever means to rise, literally “lift yourself.” When the king rose from his bed and received visitors, that was a levee. When you raise up dirt or other materials to build a dam or levee, that’s also a levee. Now, official levees don’t involve kings––but you might hear of “a governor’s levee at the state capital.” And levee can be used as a verb, meaning to make an embankment, or shore up.
an embankment that is built in order to prevent a river from overflowing
a pier that provides a landing place on a river
a formal reception of visitors or guests (as at a royal court)