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

The Shermans were next to each other in an eerie tableau, their legs stretched out on the tiled floor, the belts holding them up by the neck, according to people familiar with the case. Jacquie Mcnish And Vipal Monga, WSJ, "After a Billionaire and His Wife Are Found Dead, Their Children Try to Crack the Case," 29 June 2018 Swiss documentary director Daniel Zimmermann makes a formally impressive feature debut with his take on nature and globalization in 13 tableaux that all pan right for 360 degress. Boyd Van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Walden': Film Review | Karlovy Vary 2018," 12 July 2018 Not a molecule of dust has settled on the carmine sofas and cherrywood bookcases and desktop tableaux of 19th-century objets. Molly Young, GQ, "The Excessive Vision of Donatella Versace," 20 Mar. 2018 Eventually, this tableau is interrupted with a piece of unexpected news, and Maoz wrings even further drama (and some truly bleak comedy) from the disruption of the soldiers’ commiseration routine. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Foxtrot Is a Dreamlike Interrogation of War," 27 Feb. 2018 The fierce modernism is offset by arresting tableaux. The Economist, "George Benjamin’s defence of opera," 17 May 2018 Thierry Mugler’s diamanté gown in virgin blue (autumn/winter 1984-85), invoking the Assumption of Mary, floats above an archway and blesses the long view into the Robert Lehman Wing, where a tableau of angels awaits. Laura Jacobs, WSJ, "‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ Review: A Gift From the Sartorial Gods," 10 May 2018 This tableau — which follows about 80 minutes of pure sci-fi madness — is overwhelming to say the least., "Does The Westworld Ending Hint At A Queer Couple For Season 3?," 25 June 2018 The tableau, a political statement of its own, highlights the breakdown of order that can occur when women aren’t respected. Taylor Hosking, The Atlantic, "Beyonce and Jay-Z’s New Vision of Gender in ‘Apeshit’," 22 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tableau

Statistics for tableau

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tableau

The first known use of tableau was in 1660

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 \
plural tableaux also tableaus\-ˌlōz \

Kids Definition of tableau

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tableau

See 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).


alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!