bri·​co·​lage ˌbrē-kō-ˈläzh How to pronounce bricolage (audio)
: construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand
also : something constructed in this way

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Bricolage Has French Roots

According to French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the artist "shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life." Lévi-Strauss compared this artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves technical or mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making do as bricolage, a term derived from the French verb bricoler (meaning "to putter about") and related to bricoleur, the French name for a jack-of-all-trades. Bricolage made its way from French to English during the 1960s, and it is now used for everything from the creative uses of leftovers ("culinary bricolage") to the cobbling together of disparate computer parts ("technical bricolage").

Examples of bricolage in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Simultaneously there was a gathering of fragments in bricolage designs that conveyed a power-in-numbers or parts-making-a-whole kind of symbolism. Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 29 Jan. 2024 Madonna’s shows are known for being meticulous and highly conceptual, but this bricolage of past styles and aesthetics made Celebration feel unusually scrappy. Shaad D’souza, Pitchfork, 18 Oct. 2023 And nowhere does that maxim ring truer than in the world of fashion where designers relentlessly loop back to styles from decades past for inspiration, breathing new life into old trends to create a kind of bricolage between past and present that results in something totally novel. Emily Kirkpatrick, Peoplemag, 21 Sep. 2023 Sawayama’s pop bricolage nods to Shania Twain, Lady Gaga, Linkin Park and the J-pop legend Utada Hikaru. Shaad D’souza, New York Times, 14 Aug. 2023 Legendary keyboardist Herbie Hancock and producer Bill Laswell embraced the sonic bricolage of the genre on the 1983 instrumental album Future Shock. Al Shipley, Spin, 8 Aug. 2023 Call it a mash-up, call it bricolage. Caroline Randall Williams, ELLE Decor, 17 Feb. 2021 In 1962, the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss used bricolage to describe how people will recycle old cultural components and create something new. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 22 Apr. 2012 Science is a bricolage in which no single gene or feature can explain human evolution. Wired, 14 July 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bricolage.' 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 bricoler to putter about

First Known Use

1960, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bricolage was in 1960


Dictionary Entries Near bricolage

Cite this Entry

“Bricolage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

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