Definition of arabesque

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an ornament or style that employs flower, foliage, or fruit and sometimes animal and figural outlines to produce an intricate pattern of interlaced lines
2 : a posture (as in ballet) in which the body is bent forward from the hip on one leg with one arm extended forward and the other arm and leg backward
3 : an elaborate or intricate pattern … richly pierced by an arabesque of wormholes.— John Chase an arabesque of vines and leaves


ar·​a·​besque | \ ˌa-rə-ˈbesk How to pronounce arabesque (audio) , ˌer-ə\

Definition of arabesque (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being in the style of arabesque or an arabesque arabesque frescoes

Illustration of arabesque

Illustration of arabesque


arabesque 1

In the meaning defined above

Examples of arabesque in a Sentence


The students practiced their arabesques. She held her arms in arabesque.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The last feature recalls Burle Marx’s most visible achievement — nearly three miles of mosaic paving along Rio’s Copacabana Beach that echoes the polychromatic arabesques of his paintings. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "This Brazilian artist and landscape architect was bound only by the limits of his imagination," 8 July 2019 Buika’s voice, which carries the taut, intricate arabesques and throat-tearing passion of flamenco toward rock peaks, is every bit its equal. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "On ‘Africa Speaks,’ Santana Finds a Worthy Partner in Buika," 25 June 2019 Art Nouveau is crowded with the natural arabesques and patterns that seduced Haeckel. The New York Review of Books, "Lucy Jakub," 16 Dec. 2018 Its interior displays romantic scenes from the tale, and its exterior is intricately covered with golden arabesque foliage. Emily Ferguson, WSJ, "The Legacy of a Japanese Classic," 22 Feb. 2019 Valdes balanced on one leg for what felt like eons, changing positions from arabesque to passe develope without the use of her partner, Patricio Reve. Lauren Warnecke,, "Ballet Nacional de Cuba's 'Don Quixote' is unapologetically unrefreshed — and the dancing is glorious," 19 May 2018 DeWitt’s story is a deliciously light arabesque around the most popular and prestigious of these concepts, the Death of the Author—a figurative phrase used by Roland Barthes and others to describe an ideal authorial withdrawal from a literary text. James Wood, The New Yorker, "Helen DeWitt Has Your Number," 27 Oct. 2017 The finished volume is a funky panoply of arabesques, polygons and polyhedra, a fantasy of spikes, spines and spires, left levitating in white space or emerging spectrally from backgrounds dark as night. Christoph Irmscher, WSJ, "‘The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel’ Review: The Zoologist as Artist," 13 Apr. 2018 The double barrel vault ceiling has stenciled sea shells and arabesques. Janet Eastman,, "Portland price breaker: Storied mansion sells for $7 million (photos)," 19 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Many visitors admire the arabesque architecture (detailed on page 78) but fewer realize the city’s real triumph: the plumbing dates back to the second century and effortlessly carries the waste away. Rebecca Hazelton, New Republic, "IN THE CITY OF DESIRE," 18 Jan. 2018 The first move, the arabesque sous sous, gives a simple plank an upgrade. Health Staff,, "Tracy Anderson’s Top 5 Belly Fat-Blasting Exercises," 2 Nov. 2017 An at-home-after-a-long-day impromptu dance party in May, Arabella in arabesque pose inside the White House China Room, with a caption from Ivanka about being ready for the weekend in June. Kate Bennett, CNN, "Ivanka Trump rebrands -- again," 4 Oct. 2017 Chew-Bose’s arabesque prose is sometimes lyrical to a fault. Ismail Muhammad, Slate Magazine, "Durga Chew-Bose’s dense, meticulous writing on identity politics feels like a corrective for our current political moment.," 14 Apr. 2017 When Ms. Bromberg held a single arabesque line that was revolved twice by Mr. Swatosh, wasn’t her arm stretching too high? Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "Review: Miami City Ballet, a Troupe at Home Outside Its Turf," 14 Apr. 2016 The jeweler was born too late to woo Bardot with his oversize arabesque hoops, but Jordan’s Queen Rania, Jessica Alba, and Gigi Hadid are fans. Vogue, "A Guide to Brigitte Bardot’s Beirut," 14 July 2017 Grandmother’s table has at least seven: a chamfered-corner marble top, palmette edge, carved arabesque apron, winged maiden supports, finial topped X-stretcher and paw feet. Jane Alexiadis, The Mercury News, "What’s It Worth?: 19th-century Renaissance revival table," 9 Mar. 2017 This is no surprise since the brand’s creative director, Clare Waight Keller, is fascinated with arabesque architecture. Jenn Tanaka, Orange County Register, "Architects of Style," 3 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'arabesque.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of arabesque


circa 1720, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1656, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for arabesque

Adjective and Noun

French, from Italian arabesco Arabian in fashion, from arabo Arab, from Latin Arabus

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arabesque spin



Statistics for arabesque

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for arabesque

The first known use of arabesque was circa 1656

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More Definitions for arabesque



English Language Learners Definition of arabesque

: a complicated decorative design made with many lines that curve and cross each other
: a ballet position in which the dancer stands on one foot and holds one arm forward while the other arm and leg are held out behind

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with arabesque

Spanish Central: Translation of arabesque

Nglish: Translation of arabesque for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about arabesque

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something desired as essential

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