par·​terre pär-ˈter How to pronounce parterre (audio)
: an ornamental garden with paths between the beds
: the part of the main floor of a theater that is behind the orchestra
especially : parquet circle

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Parterre Has French Roots

Parterre comes to English by way of French, where it means "on the ground". And in the early years of the theater, the parterre was truly on the ground. In Shakespeare's day, an English theater's parterre was the cheap standing-room area right in front of the stage, normally filled with rowdy spectators. The original idea of the French parterre garden, with its carefully designed plots and walkways, was to present an artistic pattern when seen from above—from a balcony, a raised terrace, or the top of an outdoor staircase. English gardeners responded with garden designs that tried to make their viewers half-forget that they were seeing something created by humans rather than untamed nature itself.

Examples of parterre in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Best of all, perhaps, are the widespread views over Cliveden’s gardens and famous parterre. Angelina Villa-Clarke, Forbes, 26 Jan. 2023 The proscenium has been removed entirely and the stage brought forward 25 feet, fitted with flexible risers and parterre seating. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 6 Oct. 2022 About 900 bitter orange trees, planted in square metal boxes faced with oak, are sheltered in winter under its vaulted ceiling and used in summer to decorate its parterre as well as the Élysée Palace, the French president’s residence in Paris. Kathleen Beckett, New York Times, 6 Apr. 2020 Set on over 4 acres, this three-story, spacious English manor, located in a secluded, gated setting in prestigious close-in Memorial, is surrounded by park-like grounds and parterre gardens. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, 15 Feb. 2020 The grounds offer a little bit of everything, including expansive lawns, a formal garden, a vegetable parterre, as well as natural forests and a fishing pond. Megan Barber, Curbed, 20 Dec. 2018 True to the period of the house, this one encloses a parterre garden accented by crape myrtle, camellia, sago palm, and banana. Lindsay Bierman, Southern Living, 20 Aug. 2012 Room furnishings in the main house are classical, with four-poster beds, but are updated with light, subtle fabrics and have hypnotic views of woods and parterres. Condé Nast Traveler, 20 Oct. 2017 There are no richer parterres to my eyes than the dense beds of dwarf andromeda (Cassandra calyculata) which cover these tender places on the earth’s surface. Henry David Thoreau, The Atlantic, 6 Oct. 2017 See More

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

Word History


French, from Middle French, from par terre on the ground

First Known Use

circa 1625, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of parterre was circa 1625

Dictionary Entries Near parterre

Cite this Entry

“Parterre.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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