tab·​leau | \ ˈta-ˌblō, ta-ˈblō \
plural tableaux\ ˈta-​ˌblōz , 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

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 Photo: Newark Museum The exhibition’s opening tableau is a decorative delight that catches how beguiling the animated surface of kimono silks must have been to Westerners in 1854. Laura Jacobs, WSJ, "‘Kimono Refashioned: 1870s-Now!’ Review: Unfolding a Garment’s Long History," 16 Oct. 2018 In the salon, Ortiz enlisted Eloin Rivera, a muralist from Cali, to paint a stunning palm-landscape tableau inspired by the local botany, which Ortiz had researched. Vanessa Lawrence, ELLE Decor, "This Colombian Fashion Designer Brings a Sophisticated Spirit Into Her Cartagena Home," 9 Aug. 2018 Take Cecil Beaton’s pictures of Queen Elizabeth or Annie Leibovitz’s moody tableaux of the Windsor family. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Kate Middleton Holds a Laughing Prince Louis in the Most Candid Royal Family Portrait Yet," 16 July 2018 And here is yet again a tableau featuring nonwhite characters — Chinese workers who’ve come to the U.S. to help build the transcontinental railroad — that the show reduces to either set dressing or a throwaway moment of shock and horror. William Lee,, "‘Westworld’ Episode 4 recap: 5 things to know about ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’," 14 May 2018 Some flanked Ariana at a long table, reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, while others posed statuesquely by the massive pillars and majestic galaxy background behind the tableau. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Ariana Grande's VMAs 2018 Performance of "God is a Woman" Was a Religious Experience," 21 Aug. 2018 Some flanked Grande at a long table, reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, while others posed by the massive pillars and galaxy background behind the tableau. Andrea Park, Glamour, "Ariana Grande's 2018 MTV VMAs Performance of "God Is a Woman" Featured 50 Diverse Female Dancers," 20 Aug. 2018 The organizers include three tableaux populated by mannequins. Cate Mcquaid,, "MFA’s ‘Casanova’ a voluptuous look at a notorious voluptuary," 6 July 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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Statistics for tableau

Last Updated

21 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tableau

The first known use of tableau was in 1660

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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 \
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

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involving abstract or general statements

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