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 Out on the streets, St. Petersburg remains, as ever, a magnificent tableau of palaces and beauty, now bathed in the eerie, round-the-clock light known as the White Nights. Andrew E. Kramer,, "Too close for comfort, and the virus, in Russia’s communal apartments," 13 June 2020 The slow movement of the Tchaikovsky began with a tableau of jaw-dropping beauty: an immaculate horn solo, by Stefan Dohr, emerging from a thick morning mist of strings. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Kirill Petrenko’s Unadventurous Début at the Berlin Philharmonic," 9 Sep. 2019 Sometimes candles are placed next to the sticks, creating a tableau that is unspeakably sad yet also beautiful. Helene Elliott,, "The hockey community is leaving hockey sticks out for the Humboldt boys," 10 Apr. 2018 Their poses and gestures and glances and the intensity of their talk converge to render the flat and tableau-like space in high sculptural relief. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Fourteen,” Reviewed: Dan Sallitt’s Vast Vision of Two Friends and the Fault Lines Between Them," 15 May 2020 All of them, illuminated by lamps from above, appeared as if in a Caravaggio tableau. Molly Crabapple, The New York Review of Books, "Passover 2020: Why Is This Year Different From All Other Years?," 7 Apr. 2020 Not the platonic ideal of a mixed-gender field — a tableau promoting the country’s progress — but how the undercurrents of dismissiveness and frustration and manners play out onstage during an elimination game. Monica Hesse, Washington Post, "Warren and Klobuchar stopped tone-policing themselves. It created the realest debate moments yet.," 20 Feb. 2020 She and DP Tat Radcliffe capture striking tableaux of the Southern landscape. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Queen & Slim': Film Review | AFI 2019," 15 Nov. 2019 The rudimentary conditions faced by some 2,000 asylum-seekers camped out here along the Rio Grande have long been denounced as an appalling tableau, just 100 yards from the border with Brownsville, Texas. Los Angeles Times, "Aid workers seek to avoid coronavirus outbreak at Matamoros migrant camp," 5 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of tableau was in 1660

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Statistics for tableau

Last Updated

21 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tableau.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for tableau


How to pronounce tableau (audio) How to pronounce tableau (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tableau

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tableau

Spanish Central: Translation of tableau

Nglish: Translation of tableau for Spanish Speakers

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