1 of 2


lap·​i·​dary ˈla-pə-ˌder-ē How to pronounce lapidary (audio)
plural lapidaries
: a cutter, polisher, or engraver of precious stones usually other than diamonds
: the art of cutting gems


2 of 2


: having the elegance and precision associated with inscriptions on monumental stone
a stanza that has a lapidary dignity
: sculptured in or engraved on stone
: of, relating to, or suggestive of precious stones or the art of cutting them

Did you know?

The Latin word for “stone” is lapis, which rock hounds and jewelry lovers may be familiar with as the term for a semi-precious, deep blue gem also known as lapis lazuli, or “stone of the sky.” In the 1300s, lapis lent its shine to the English noun lapidary, referring to a cutter, polisher, or engraver of precious stones, as well as to the art of such a person. The crystalline refinement involved in the work of a lapidary eventually led, centuries later, to the use of lapidary as an adjective describing things that have the elegance and precision of inscriptions carved in stone monuments. Today it is used most often to characterize speech or prose (such as an essay, memoir, or address) that is considered notably clear and fine, but lapidary can also describe virtues such as grace and dignity, whether observed in one’s language or character.

Examples of lapidary in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Hobby lapidaries and gem collectors can find sunstones at Dust Devil Mining three ways: Dig for free in a deep pit: To keep any of the stones, you will be charged 50% of the wholesale value for better colored stones and clear stones that will cut over 8 carats. oregonlive, 2 Mar. 2023 Center, 4855 Arctic Boulevard, Anchorage. Shop handmade crafts from all over the state of Alaska: jewelry, artwork, furs, crochet, clothing, blankets, gold, ivory, baleen, lapidary and a host of handmade artisan confections marshmallows and baked goods. Admission and arena-style parking is free! Anchorage Daily News, 23 Sep. 2022 The refrain is, typically for Mellencamp, lapidary. Kyle Smith, National Review, 4 July 2021 The Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts this annual lapidary, fossil, mineral and gemstone exhibition and marketplace, with activities and education for all ages. San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Jan. 2023 Take this 22k gold ring, for example, which is crowned with a yellow Beryl that has been hand-carved by a master lapidary into the shape of Heket, the Egyptian goddess of fertility. Leena Kim, Town & Country, 4 Dec. 2022 Perfume is an accessory as elevating and as personal as a piece of jewelry, and perhaps no one knows this better than Cartier perfumer Mathilde Laurent, who crafts every scent with the meticulous care of a lapidary. April Long, Town & Country, 27 Oct. 2020
The National Review enterprise exists to promote the lapidary principles on which America was founded; to contest such manipulation and to dispel such doubt. Peter J. Travers, National Review, 30 Dec. 2023 Similarly, the movie’s dialogue is spare but not scant; Jackson writes lines of a lapidary strength and density, and her actors deliver them in a way that conveys the experience packed within. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 2 Nov. 2023 Readers were clamoring for literary works that deployed irony, lapidary prose and an artful yet steely-eyed glimpse into the conflict. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2023 Since then, there was barely a moment when his eloquent, lapidary observations on art old and new could not be read — in addition to the Voice, in the New York Times, ArtNews, Art in America, 7 Days and other magazines, plus assorted gallery catalogs. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 23 Oct. 2022 There’s an enveloping quality to Jünger’s lapidary stylistic turn in the novel. Thomas Meaney, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Feb. 2023 When identical copies of tools are required, his team uses lapidary equipment, or rock-cutters, to mass-produce them. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, 5 Oct. 2017 In absorbing detail and lapidary prose, Gage, a historian at Yale, makes clear that Hoover designed his bureau to be a potent tool for advancing the security needs of a growing national government—no matter which president or party controlled it. Michael Kazin, The New Republic, 9 Dec. 2022 The show features fossils crystals and gems, rough slabs and cabs along with lapidary tools. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History



Latin lapidarius of stone, from lapid-, lapis stone

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1724, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lapidary was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near lapidary

Cite this Entry

“Lapidary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural lapidaries
: a person who cuts and polishes precious stones
lapidary adjective
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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