fil·​i·​gree | \ ˈfi-lə-ˌgrē How to pronounce filigree (audio) \

Definition of filigree

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : ornamental work especially of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper applied chiefly to gold and silver surfaces a headband decorated with silver filigree
2a : ornamental openwork of delicate or intricate design
b : a pattern or design resembling such openwork a filigree of frost
c : ornamentation, embellishment writings … heavy with late Victorian filigree— Jack Beatty


filigreed; filigreeing

Definition of filigree (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to adorn with or as if with filigree

Illustration of filigree

Illustration of filigree


filigree 2a

In the meaning defined above

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Did You Know?

Ornamental work formerly made with grains or beads is called filigree. It comes from an Italian word made from the Latin words for thread and grain. Today filigree is usually of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper, and is used chiefly to decorate gold and silver surfaces. Filigree can also apply to any ornamental openwork of delicate or intricate design or to a pattern or design resembling such openwork.

Examples of filigree in a Sentence


a surface decorated with filigree and pearls

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There’s an appealing rasp to Bo Hansen’s singing, a kind of wearied soulfulness that fights with the surrounding din, which is driven by the kaleidoscopic organ filigree of Mary McKane. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "A pair of new acts on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind imprint update scrappy 90s indie rock with shaggy pop melodies," 29 June 2018 The Tanglewood reception wasn’t extravagant, even though his encore, the Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp minor, showed Lang Lang’s filigree legato at its very best. David Patrick Stearns,, "Lang Lang's recovery: Will he ever play in Philly again?," 12 July 2018 Shoes were either Moorish sandals with upturned toes of gold filigree or Roman sandals whose soles were lined with grass (but not that kind). Luke Leitch, Vogue, "Dolce & Gabbana’s Como Chameleons: Naomi Campbell, Halima Aden, and Maye Musk Model Alta Moda in Italy," 6 July 2018 Tuna is opaque, with faint filigrees of ivory fat; unagi is lush and lacquered sweetly, while octopus has a sausagelike snap. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Radio Anago is Brendan Sodikoff’s sushi cave under the deep dark sea . . .," 3 May 2018 My sense of his piece was of low notes and midrange sonorous chords opening up, spilling their insides like buds releasing seeds dancing into the wind, with a harmonically (in some way) filigrees in Hodges' dancing right hand. Mark Swed,, "The voices of Angela Davis and Lech Walesa, via piano," 28 Mar. 2018 Nowadays, people can enjoy the exuberant paint schemes or the intricate filigree above the porch columns. Steve Carney,, "Architecture Spotlight: Victorian is a stately, though needy, grande dame," 16 June 2018 Philip Chasen, an antiques dealer in East Norwich, N.Y., said that few other enthusiasts specialized as intently as Mr. Hancock, although Mr. Chasen did have one customer who sought only Tiffany desk sets enlaced in grapevine filigree. New York Times, "A Tiffany Collector of Things Pastel," 8 May 2018 For a venue of this size, the show itself was small scaled and modestly budgeted — barely any stage filigree, relatively simple lighting, no platforms hovering out over the crowd. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Review: In a Big Room, Lorde Protects the Small Moments," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In contrast to the historic skyscraper’s filigreed crown of flying buttresses and pinnacles, the top of the new one would consist of curving glass walls extending beyond the building’s occupied floors. Blair Kamin And Ryan Ori,, "Developers plan city's second-tallest skyscraper next to new Tribune Tower condos," 16 Apr. 2018 The Mulsanne is a large luxury superliner of Bentley refinement and filigree that work flawlessly as luxurious separators from the competition, mainly the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Mercedes-Maybach S600. Mark Maynard,, "2017 Bentley Mulsanne: A battle hymn of tradition and stoic provenance," 11 Aug. 2017 St. Petersburg is a museum city, its gold-filigreed heart pulsing with tsarist palaces, Baroque churches, and Art Nouveau mansions. Sophie Pinkham, New Republic, "How a Russian Street Art Museum Defies Kremlin Censors," 3 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'filigree.' 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 filigree


1693, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1831, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for filigree

Noun and Verb

modification of French filigrane, from Italian filigrana, from Latin filum + granum grain — more at corn

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Time Traveler for filigree

The first known use of filigree was in 1693

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More Definitions for filigree



English Language Learners Definition of filigree

: decoration that consists of delicate and complicated designs made of fine gold or silver wire


fil·​i·​gree | \ ˈfi-lə-ˌgrē How to pronounce filigree (audio) \

Kids Definition of filigree

: decoration made of fine wire a jewelry box with gold filigree

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More from Merriam-Webster on filigree

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with filigree

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for filigree

Spanish Central: Translation of filigree

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

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