1 of 2


fil·​i·​gree ˈfi-lə-ˌgrē How to pronounce filigree (audio)
: ornamental work especially of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper applied chiefly to gold and silver surfaces
a headband decorated with silver filigree
: ornamental openwork of delicate or intricate design
: a pattern or design resembling such openwork
a filigree of frost
: ornamentation, embellishment
writings … heavy with late Victorian filigreeJack Beatty

Illustration of filigree

Illustration of filigree
  • filigree 2a


2 of 2


filigreed; filigreeing

transitive verb

: to adorn with or as if with filigree

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.

Example Sentences

Noun a surface decorated with filigree and pearls
Recent Examples on the Web
The Shang piece is surprisingly realistic but also elegantly decorative, covered in complex filigree. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 4 Apr. 2023 Springsteen’s plaintive guitar opening and scatty vocals, joined by Charlie Giordano’s keyboard filigree, were soon caught in a staccato blast of horns (trumpeters Curt Ramm and Barry Danielian, saxophonist Eddie Manion and trombonist Ozzie Melendez, aided by Clemons). Ben Crandell, Sun Sentinel, 8 Feb. 2023 Housed in vitrines in the Louvre’s sumptuous Galerie d’Apollon, fitted jackets festooned with a variety of gold filigree, rock crystal, and cabochons from 1979-81 appear nearly as exquisite as the Crown Jewels worn by French queens and empresses in the 19th century. Amy Verner, Vogue, 28 Feb. 2022 His first major project, the Robert Altman–directed murder mystery Gosford Park, felt like a British homage to the American Wharton and her elegant skewering of social regimes via the ornate filigree of details that sustain them. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 27 Jan. 2022 Embossed with a golden filigree and encrusted with multicolor gems, this work of art features roughly 250 bound, lined pages and a golden tassel bookmark. Nicole Briese, USA TODAY, 13 Nov. 2020 But because the heart has its own needs too, some of those vessels form a filigree of coronary arteries that laces through the cardiac muscle. Quanta Magazine, 13 Feb. 2023 Or surround an Ansel Adams photograph in ornate gold filigree? Loren Savini, Allure, 2 Feb. 2023 Take, for instance, the technically flawless mandarin garnet pendant with dainty emerald and diamond filigree set on a geometric chain necklace (pictured here), which almost looks like a starburst or beautiful poppy ensconced in leaves. Claire Stern, ELLE, 26 Jan. 2023
Two years and much ado later, Raghda serves lattes filigreed with milk art at a strip-mall coffee shop and Rafaa hosts community gatherings at an event space across the way. Vivian Yee, New York Times, 14 Mar. 2020 Another helpful move was using what Bugatti calls filigree side view mirrors, which let air pass through them. Alex Davies, WIRED, 19 Aug. 2019 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,, 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,, 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, 3 July 2017 See More

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

Word History


Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use


1693, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1831, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of filigree was in 1693

Dictionary Entries Near filigree

Cite this Entry

“Filigree.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


: ornamental work especially of fine wire applied chiefly to gold and silver surfaces
: ornamental work of delicate or complicated design done so as to show openings through the material
: a pattern or design resembling such work
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!