di·​aph·​a·​nous dī-ˈa-fə-nəs How to pronounce diaphanous (audio)
: characterized by such fineness of texture as to permit seeing through
diaphanous fabrics
a diaphanous curtain
: characterized by extreme delicacy of form : ethereal
painted diaphanous landscapes
: insubstantial, vague
had only a diaphanous hope of success
diaphanously adverb
diaphanousness noun

Did you know?

Can you guess which of the following words come from the same Greek root as diaphanous?

A. epiphany B. fancy C. phenomenon D. sycophant E. emphasis F. phase

The Greek word phainein shows through more clearly in some of our quiz words than others, but it underlies all of them. The groundwork for diaphanous was laid when phainein (meaning "to show") was combined with dia- (meaning "through"). From that pairing came the Greek diaphanēs, parent of the Medieval Latin diaphanus, which is the direct ancestor of our English word.

Example Sentences

the bride wore a diaphanous veil
Recent Examples on the Web And in its fleeting clearings, delightfully diaphanous woodwinds and flutes told the tale. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2022 There’s a spectacular moment when Mitzi, wearing a diaphanous gown, breaks into a rapturous, balletic dance that Bennie urges Sammy to film. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2022 Spring rolls were an artful assemblage of two shrimp, laid across lettuce-and-vermicelli filling, visible through the diaphanous rice-paper wrapping. Rand Richards Cooper, Hartford Courant, 10 Oct. 2022 The exploration of inside-out or back-to-front continued in a beautiful nude skin-like top with matching nude pants speckled sparingly with diaphanous plumes on model Anna Cleveland. Thomas Adamson, ajc, 2 Oct. 2022 In 2016, Gomez made his first foray into furniture design with a line of diaphanous Lucite tables inset with mandalas, circular diagrams considered sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism. Paola Singer, ELLE Decor, 28 Sep. 2022 Ella, 23, dared to bare on the designer's catwalk, wearing a diaphanous green scarf top that revealed her breast and full midriff. Anna Lazarus Caplan, Peoplemag, 12 Sep. 2022 Characterized by sheer white tones with a glossy finish, the milky nail look supplies a more natural effect; one that looked beautiful against Lopez’s glowing skin, bright wedding gown, and diaphanous tulle veil on her big day. Violeta Valdés, Vogue, 30 Aug. 2022 The mascot’s diaphanous wings illuminate with the car’s lights. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 4 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


extension with -ous of Medieval Latin diafanus, diaphanus, borrowed from Greek diaphanḗs "transparent, manifest, conspicuous," adjective derivative from the stem of diaphaínein "to let be seen through," diaphaínesthai "to show through, be seen through," from dia- dia- + phaínein (active voice) "to bring to light, cause to appear," and phaínesthai (middle voice) "to become visible, come to light, appear" — more at fantasy entry 1

First Known Use

1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of diaphanous was in 1614


Dictionary Entries Near diaphanous

Cite this Entry

“Diaphanous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diaphanous. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.

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