bi·​jou ˈbē-ˌzhü How to pronounce bijou (audio)
plural bijous or bijoux ˈbē-ˌzhü(z) How to pronounce bijou (audio)
: a small dainty usually ornamental piece of delicate workmanship : jewel
: something delicate, elegant, or highly prized
bijou adjective

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Bijou (which can be pluralized as either bijoux or bijous) has adorned English since the late 17th century. We borrowed it from French, but the word ultimately traces to Breton, a Celtic language closely related to Cornish and Welsh and spoken by inhabitants of the Brittany region of northwest France. Our modern English word derives from Breton bizou, which means "ring." That history makes bijou a rare gem in English because, although the Breton people occupied part of England for many years before they were pushed into France by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries, very few Breton-derived words remain in our language. (Another Breton descendant is menhir, a term for a kind of monolith.)

Examples of bijou in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In 2018, Yum Brands’ Taco Bell launched a TV commercial for its then-new Nacho Fries that looked just like a sneak preview a viewer might see at the local bijou. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 5 Feb. 2024 Welcome to the world of From Lucie, Franc de Ferriere’s new bakery, which opened this past weekend in the East Village behind a bijou, mustard yellow storefront—and has already attracted lines around the block. Jordan Hernandez, Vogue, 19 Jan. 2023 Firstly, Rosemary, a bijou new riad with a calming courtyard and sunny rooftop, from Laurence Leenaert, the designer behind the LRNCE brand of ceramics and textiles. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 29 Nov. 2022 Following is the Wunderkammer room, focused on the maison’s bijou wonders. Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 26 Sep. 2022 The street is lined with markets, bakeries, and bijou food shops with rotisserie chickens twirling in the window. Zoe Dubno, Vogue, 15 Dec. 2022 In addition to the Christie’s auction, Hubert de Givenchy’s style has inspired a tribute across town, at the Galerie Kugel, a bijou of an antiques gallery on the Left Bank. Tina Isaac-Goizé, Vogue, 13 June 2022 The bijou is at home now, on the couch or bed, streaming in ultrahigh definition. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, 16 Dec. 2021 Treat yourself with a bijou boutique cruise and set sail in some of the world’s most stunning locations. Nicole Trilivas, Forbes, 19 Oct. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bijou.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, from Breton bizou ring, from biz finger

First Known Use

1668, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bijou was in 1668


Dictionary Entries Near bijou

Cite this Entry

“Bijou.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

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