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Puppet vs. Marionette — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 22, 2023
A puppet is a figure moved by hand or strings, while a marionette is a specific type of puppet controlled by strings from above.
Puppet vs. Marionette — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Puppet and Marionette


Key Differences

Within the fascinating realm of theatrical arts, both puppets and marionettes have garnered immense popularity over the years. A puppet, as a broad term, refers to a movable figure that represents a person or animal. This figure can be manipulated by hand, rods, or even strings. In contrast, a marionette is a specialized subset of the puppet family, distinguished by its unique string-based control mechanism.
Marionettes are puppets that are exclusively manipulated from above using strings attached to their various parts. This intricate system allows for complex movements and graceful articulation, making marionettes a favorite in certain theatrical performances. On the other hand, puppets encompass a wider range of figures, including hand puppets, shadow puppets, and ventriloquist dummies, to name a few.
The beauty of puppets lies in their versatility; they can be as simple as a sock puppet or as detailed as a lifelike figure. Marionettes, with their string controls, require a certain level of skill to operate, bringing forth a balletic quality to their movements. Yet, every marionette is a puppet, but not every puppet is a marionette.
Lastly, while puppets have been used across cultures and ages for both entertainment and educational purposes, marionettes have a rich history in European theater, showcasing detailed performances that captivate audiences with their lifelike dances and gestures.

Comparison Chart


A movable figure representing a person or animal.
A puppet controlled specifically by strings from above.

Control Mechanism

Can be manipulated by hand, rods, or strings.
Exclusively manipulated using strings.


Encompasses various types, including hand and shadow puppets.
A specific subset of puppets.


Ranges from simple to intricate designs.
Usually more detailed with complex movements.

Cultural History

Used universally across various cultures and ages.
Rich history, especially in European theater.

Compare with Definitions


A figure moved by hand or strings for entertainment.
Children love watching the puppet show at the local theater.


A puppet showcasing lifelike dances and gestures.
The marionette's performance was the highlight of the evening.


A person, party, or entity controlled by another.
Some believe he's just a puppet of the corporation.


A theatrical figure manipulated from above.
She specializes in marionette performances.


A movable model used in animation.
The animator uses a puppet to create the character's movements.


A puppet controlled by strings attached to its limbs.
The marionette danced gracefully across the stage.


A doll-like figure representing a character.
She crafted a puppet resembling her favorite cartoon hero.


A string-operated doll used in special theatrical shows.
The marionette show attracted a large audience.


An inanimate object given apparent life by a performer.
The puppeteer brought the puppet to life on stage.


A detailed puppet requiring skill to operate.
He took years to master the art of controlling a marionette.


A puppet is an object, often resembling a human, animal or mythical figure, that is animated or manipulated by a person called a puppeteer. The puppeteer uses movements of their hands, arms, or control devices such as rods or strings to move the body, head, limbs, and in some cases the mouth and eyes of the puppet.


A marionette (; French: marionnette, [ma.ʁjɔ.nɛt]) is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations. A marionette's puppeteer is called a marionettist.


A small figure of a person or animal, having a cloth body and hollow head, designed to be fitted over and manipulated by the hand.


A jointed puppet manipulated from above by strings or wires attached to its limbs.


A figure having jointed parts animated from above by strings or wires; a marionette.


A puppet, usually made of wood, which is animated by the pulling of strings.


A toy representing a human figure; a doll.


(obsolete) The buffel duck.


One whose behavior is determined by the will of others
A political puppet.


(transitive) To control (somebody) as if they were a puppet; to manipulate.


Any small model of a person or animal able to be moved by strings or rods, or in the form of a glove.


A puppet moved by strings, as in a puppet show.


(figuratively) A person, country, etc, controlled by another.


The buffel duck.


(obsolete) A poppet; a small image in the human form; a doll.


A small figure of a person operated from above with strings by a puppeteer


(engineering) The upright support for the bearing of the spindle in a lathe.


A small image in the human form; a doll.


A similar figure moved by the hand or by a wire in a mock drama; a marionette; a wooden actor in a play.
At the pipes of some carved organ move,The gilded puppets dance.


One controlled in his action by the will of another; a tool; - so used in contempt.


The upright support for the bearing of the spindle in a lathe.


A small figure of a person operated from above with strings by a puppeteer


A person who is controlled by others and is used to perform unpleasant or dishonest tasks for someone else


A doll with a hollow head of a person or animal and a cloth body; intended to fit over the hand and be manipulated with the fingers

Common Curiosities

Is a marionette a type of puppet?

Yes, a marionette is a specific type of puppet controlled by strings.

Which requires more skill to operate, puppet or marionette?

Marionettes typically require more skill due to their string-based control.

Can a puppet represent a non-living thing?

Yes, while puppets often represent living entities, they can also depict non-living objects.

What's the primary distinction between a puppet and a marionette?

The main difference lies in the control mechanism; marionettes are specifically string-controlled.

Which is older in history, puppet or marionette?

Both have ancient origins, but puppets, as a broader category, likely predate marionettes.

Can "puppet" be used metaphorically?

Yes, it can refer to someone controlled by another entity or force.

Are there schools or courses for puppetry and marionette operation?

Yes, there are institutions and courses dedicated to the art of puppetry and marionette control.

Are puppets and marionettes used for educational purposes?

Yes, they're used for storytelling, teaching lessons, and more.

Can a puppet be controlled without strings?

Yes, puppets can be manipulated by hand, rods, or other means.

Are marionettes more common in certain cultures?

Marionettes have a rich history in European theater.

Are there other types of puppets besides marionettes?

Yes, including hand puppets, shadow puppets, and ventriloquist dummies.

Are marionettes used in modern entertainment?

Yes, they're used in theatrical performances, movies, and TV shows.

Do both puppets and marionettes come in various sizes?

Yes, they can range from very small to life-sized figures.

Is puppetry considered an art form?

Absolutely, puppetry, including marionette performances, is a recognized art form.

Can anyone learn to operate a puppet or marionette?

Yes, with practice and dedication, anyone can learn the art of puppetry or marionette control.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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