• bas-relief
  • audio pronunciation
  • \bah-rih-LEEF\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: sculptural relief in which the projection from the surrounding surface is slight and no part of the modeled form is undercut; also : sculpture executed in bas-relief
  • EXAMPLES

Jamal admired the bas-reliefs carved into the walls of the ancient Assyrian palace.

"Nearly 50 people … came to the unveiling on Friday afternoon and watched as Mayor Marina Khubesrian and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, pulled the covering off the bas-relief to reveal a father reading to his three daughters." — From an article by Zen Vuong in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (California), March 22, 2014

  • DID YOU KNOW?

The best way to understand the meaning of "bas-relief" is to see one—and the easiest way to do that is to pull one out of your pocket. Just take out a penny, nickel, or other coin and examine the raised images on it; they're all bas-reliefs. English speakers adopted "bas-relief" from French (where "bas" means "low" and "relief" means "raised work") during the mid-1600s. A few decades earlier, we also borrowed the synonymous "basso-relievo" from Italian. The French and Italian terms have common ancestors (and, in fact, the French word is likely a translation of the Italian), but English speakers apparently borrowed the two independently. "Bas-relief" is more prevalent in English today, although the Italian-derived term has not disappeared completely from the language.

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "sallow," our Word of the Day from March 26? The answer is …

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