sfu·​ma·​to sfü-ˈmä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce sfumato (audio)
: the definition of form in painting without abrupt outline by the blending of one tone into another

Examples of sfumato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Leonardo is famous for his use of sfumato, a technique that uses layering to make smooth transitions between colors and tones. Teresa Nowakowski, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Nov. 2023 Her soft hair has been rendered with smoky, blurry brush strokes that anticipate Leonardo’s mastery of sfumato by decades. Jason Farago, New York Times, 27 Feb. 2020 So, for all the hype surrounding it, the exhibition offers a precious opportunity to find a bit of focus in the fog, to draw something substantial out of the sfumato. Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2019 That’s because the artist’s famed sfumato technique—a blurring of outlines—gives the painting an ethereal quality that is exceedingly hard to mimic on a sentient face. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, 6 June 2019 Resounding and joyful, the rich complexity of its sound evokes the luminescence of Leonardo’s paintings—a musical sfumato with soft edges and lingering tones. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, 12 June 2019 But Leonardo’s ability to blur the line between reality and imagination, just like his sfumato technique for blurring the lines of a painting, was a key to his creativity. Walter Isaacson, WSJ, 29 Sep. 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sfumato.' 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 past participle of sfumare to evaporate

First Known Use

1909, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sfumato was in 1909

Dictionary Entries Near sfumato

Cite this Entry

“Sfumato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sfumato. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

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