trip·​tych ˈtrip-(ˌ)tik How to pronounce triptych (audio)
: a picture (such as an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side by side
: something composed or presented in three parts or sections
especially : trilogy
: an ancient Roman writing tablet with three waxed leaves hinged together

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Triptych Has Greek Roots

A painted or carved triptych typically has three hinged panels, and the two outer panels can be folded in towards the central one. A literary or musical triptych generally consists of three closely related or contrasting themes or parts. Triptych derives from the Greek triptychos ("having three folds"), formed by combining tri- ("three") and ptychē ("fold" or "layer"). Although triptych originally described a specific type of Roman writing tablet that had three hinged sections, it is not surprising that the idea was generalized first to a type of painting, and then to anything composed of three parts.

Examples of triptych in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Whitehead’s triptych plays out against the backdrop of deindustrialization and manifold Cold War-era political shifts slowly choking the city and country to death. Walton Muyumba,, 13 July 2023 Other major entries in the database include a triptych by Francis Bacon (said to be owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich), René Magritte’s The Domain of Arnheim and several works by Mark Rothko. Teresa Nowakowski, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Aug. 2023 For now, the triptych feels like a finished structure. Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, 31 July 2023 Because when Past Lives throws you into the last part of its triptych story, another dozen years have passed and the stakes have become so much higher. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 2 June 2023 Almost as big are triptychs of Andy Warhol with members of his Factory crowd and of the defendants in the Chicago 7 trial. Mark Feeney,, 22 Mar. 2023 The exhibition included a 33-foot-wide triptych, A Day! WSJ, 2 Mar. 2023 The audience understandably thought the triptych was over and applauded. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 17 July 2023 On Saturday, tabloid The Sun claimed that Cameron was discussing the series — which would form a bizarro thematic triptych with his Titanic and The Abyss — with a major streaming service, and that Matt Damon and Kumail Nanjiani were frontrunners for roles. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 15 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'triptych.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Greek triptychos having three folds, from tri- + ptychē fold

First Known Use

1731, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of triptych was in 1731


Dictionary Entries Near triptych

Cite this Entry

“Triptych.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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