tab·​leau | \ ˈta-ˌblō How to pronounce tableau (audio) , ta-ˈblō How to pronounce tableau (audio) \
plural tableaux\ ˈta-​ˌblōz How to pronounce tableaux (audio) , ta-​ˈblōz \ also tableaus

Definition of tableau

1 : a graphic description or representation : picture winsome tableaux of old-fashioned literary days— J. D. Hart
2 : a striking or artistic grouping : arrangement, scene
3 [ short for tableau vivant (from French, literally, living picture) ] : a depiction of a scene usually presented on a stage by silent and motionless costumed participants

Examples of tableau in a Sentence

The houses are grouped together in a charming tableau.

Recent Examples on the Web

There is struggle and disappointment in Brady’s life, but rather than pin him and the other characters down in a tableau of misery, Ms. Zhao honors their essential freedom and understands what is important to them. A.o. Scott, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Rider’ Is an American Regional Film to Savor," 11 Apr. 2018 Artist and friend Andrea Smith painted a trompe l’oeil marble wall with Grecian urns to complete the kitschy, decadent tableau. Monica Kim, Vogue, "James Veloria Christens JV Retreat—A Red Hot Vintage Playroom—With a ’90s Tom Ford Sale," 15 Nov. 2018 But this has been a season like none other, as the world watches and holds its breath over the sad tableau of the grieving whale and her baby. Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times, "Grieving mother orca falling behind family as she carries dead calf for a seventh day," 30 July 2018 Annie is an artist who creates tableaux in miniature houses, which the camera lingers on, at one point segueing seamlessly into a scene of the real house. Jason Zinoman, New York Times, "Home Is Where the Horror Is," 7 June 2018 In the 19th century, Julia Margaret Cameron, Henry Peach Robinson, Oscar Gustave Rejlander and other photographers set up elaborate tableaux vivants as their subjects. William Meyers, WSJ, "‘Gail Albert Halaban: Out My Window’ Review: Voyeuristic Beauty," 18 Sep. 2018 The actresses were photographed in an incredible tableau while filming what now looks like the best scene of Big Little Lies season two. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Reese Witherspoon Throwing Ice Cream at Meryl Streep Is Now the Perfect Meme," 2 Aug. 2018 The bartender and a man sitting alone observed this tableau. Elizabeth Barber, The New Yorker, "An Ad-Hoc Campfire for City Tipplers," 3 May 2018 Some of the most striking imagery occurred when the humans weren’t moving at all, arranging themselves into eye-catching tableaux. Matthew J. Palm,, "Vocalist lights up Orlando Ballet's 'Contemporary Wonders'," 5 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tableau.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tableau

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tableau

French, from Middle French tablel, diminutive of table, from Old French

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Time Traveler for tableau

The first known use of tableau was in 1660

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More Definitions for tableau



English Language Learners Definition of tableau

: a view or sight that looks like a picture
: a scene that typically shows an event in history or literature and that is created on a stage by a group of people who are dressed in costumes and who do not speak or move


tab·​leau | \ ˈta-ˌblō How to pronounce tableau (audio) \
plural tableaux also tableaus\ -​ˌlōz \

Kids Definition of tableau

: a scene or event shown by a group of persons who remain still and silent

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More from Merriam-Webster on tableau

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tableau

Spanish Central: Translation of tableau

Nglish: Translation of tableau for Spanish Speakers

Comments on tableau

What made you want to look up tableau? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a strong desire or propensity

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