graf·​fi·​to grə-ˈfē-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce graffito (audio)
plural graffiti grə-ˈfē-(ˌ)tē How to pronounce graffito (audio)
: an inscription or drawing made on some public surface (such as a rock or wall)
also : a message or slogan written as or as if as a graffito
grə-ˈfē-tist How to pronounce graffito (audio)

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Graffito Is the Singular Form of Graffiti

Any casual writing or design marked on a wall is a graffito. Graffiti (the plural of graffito) have been made throughout history; they are found in abundance on the monuments of ancient Egypt. Technically the term applies to a design scratched through a layer of paint or plaster, but its meaning is extended to other markings. Graffiti produced with spray paint became notorious in New York City in the 1970s and have appeared in cities all over the US and Europe. The 20th-century preoccupation with manifestations of the subconscious stimulated this form of expression and produced a vogue for “graffiti art.” Graffiti are sometimes considered a form of folk art.

Examples of graffito in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Their theory also fit with an ancient graffito found in Puteoli, Italy, depicting a crucified individual, with a woman’s name, Alkimila, above a shoulder. Fredrick Kunkle, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Apr. 2023 The home in front of them had boarded up windows and graffiti scrawled on its classic white exterior. Alina Dizik, WSJ, 28 May 2020 Some protesters damaged windows, a squad car and spraying graffiti on the building. Lici Beveridge, USA TODAY, 28 May 2020 Protesters eventually made their way to a police precinct, where some demonstrators damaged windows and sprayed graffiti, according to the Associated Press. Mahita Gajanan, Time, 27 May 2020 Many protesters marched more than 2 miles to the police precinct station in that part of the city, with some damaging the building’s windows and squad cars and spraying graffiti. Amy Forliti and Jeff Baenen, The Christian Science Monitor, 27 May 2020 Some students at Syracuse University left the campus in November after being rattled by racist and anti-Semitic incidents, including racist graffiti scrawled on dormitory walls and anti-Semitic emails sent to faculty members. Moriah Balingit, Washington Post, 31 Dec. 2019 Others sprayed graffiti along walls and smashed windows at a subway exit., 30 Sep. 2019 Reuters/Tyrone Siu Police who had earlier been stationed inside to stop protesters from entering all the way ceded the building to the control of the demonstrators, who barricaded corridors and sprayed graffiti on the walls. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, 1 July 2019 See More

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

Word History


Italian, incised inscription, from graffiare to scratch, probably from grafio stylus, from Latin graphium

First Known Use

1851, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of graffito was in 1851

Dictionary Entries Near graffito

Cite this Entry

“Graffito.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


graf·​fi·​to gra-ˈfēt-ō How to pronounce graffito (audio)
plural graffiti -(ˌ)ē How to pronounce graffito (audio)
: a writing or drawing made on a public surface (as a wall or rock)

Italian, literally, "little scratch," from graffio "scratch," derived from Latin graphium "pointed device for writing on wax tablets," derived from Greek graphein "to write" — related to -gram, grammar, -graph

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