in·​ta·​glio in-ˈtal-(ˌ)yō How to pronounce intaglio (audio) -ˈtäl- How to pronounce intaglio (audio)
plural intaglios
: an engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material depressed below the surface so that an impression from the design yields an image in relief
: the art or process of executing intaglios
: printing (as in die stamping and gravure) done from a plate in which the image is sunk below the surface
: something (such as a gem) carved in intaglio

Illustration of intaglio

Illustration of intaglio
  • intaglio 1a

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Engraved or incised work where the design is sunk into the surface is called intaglio, and is the opposite of cameo, where the design is in relief. Intaglio designs are made on gemstones, glass, ceramics, stone, or similar material. It is the most ancient form of gem engraving: the earliest known Babylonian cylinder seals date from c. 4000 bce. The term intaglio is also used to describe printmaking processes in which the design is cut, scratched, or etched into a printmaking surface of copper, zinc, or aluminum; ink is then rubbed into the incisions or grooves, the surface wiped clean, and the paper is embossed into the incised lines with pressure from a roller press. Intaglio processes are the most versatile of printmaking methods, as they can produce a wide range of effects.

Examples of intaglio in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her solo show of paintings and intaglio prints are from an ongoing series that evokes the same dreamy ambiguity. Briana Miller, oregonlive, 8 Sep. 2023 Branca is equally fond of such quirky ephemera as wax and marble feet and antique intaglios. Ingrid Abramovitch, ELLE Decor, 4 Aug. 2023 Many historians date the reverse intaglio technique to 1860-era Belgium, as an artist there named Emile Marius signed some reverse intaglio pieces. Kyle Roderick, Forbes, 1 July 2022 Their experiences made a mark on jewelry design, reviving classical motifs and ancient goldsmithing techniques, as well as the use of cameos, intaglios, and micromosaics. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, 9 June 2023 The delicate intaglios, fashioned from amethyst, jasper and carnelian, range in diameter from 5 millimeters to 16 millimeters — bigger than a pencil eraser, smaller than a dime. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 1 May 2023 The tradition of intaglios goes back to the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia, where figures were gouged by hand into softer stone. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 1 May 2023 The opposite of a cameo is an intaglio. Brenda Yenke, cleveland, 26 Aug. 2021 The largest intaglio measures 171 feet., 17 Aug. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'intaglio.' 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, from intagliare to engrave, cut, from Medieval Latin intaliare, from Latin in- + Late Latin taliare to cut — more at tailor

First Known Use

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of intaglio was in 1644

Dictionary Entries Near intaglio

Cite this Entry

“Intaglio.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ta·​glio in-ˈtal-yō How to pronounce intaglio (audio) -ˈtag-lē-ˌō How to pronounce intaglio (audio)
plural intaglios
: an engraving cut deeply into the surface of a hard material (as stone)

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