trip·​tych | \ ˈtrip-(ˌ)tik How to pronounce triptych (audio) \

Definition of triptych

1a : a picture (such as an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side by side
b : something composed or presented in three parts or sections especially : trilogy
2 : 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 This triptych of stories was a mosaic that included, not everything, but a great part of a society as complex as ours. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "‘Amores Perros’ at 20: Iñárritu’s symphony of desire still jolts," 19 Dec. 2020 In toto, the house feels classical with a contemporary accent, which is emphasized by large-scale paintings by Tony Mose, of Esom Galleru, including a custom triptych in the stairwell. R. Stephanie Bruno,, "It took a lot of searching, but Old Metairie home offers couple 'everything we wanted'," 17 Dec. 2020 But among all his works, In Love, My Face for the World to See, and The End of Me stand apart, operating as a triptych all their own. David L. Ulin, Harper's Magazine, "The Art of the Aftermath," 24 Nov. 2020 The pampering of Amazon’s customers has been a boon both to them and to Amazon, securing its dominance, but the merchants — the other panel of the triptych — have not fared as well. New York Times, "Can Shopify Compete with Amazon Without Becoming Amazon?," 17 Nov. 2020 The triptych’s central panel is at the Timken today because it was sold to a family in Sicily long before its two wings were destroyed in the fire. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Timken Museum’s education director finds meaning in making art accessible," 7 Nov. 2020 The artwork at the heart of the controversy is an 1898 triptych by Nicolaas van der Waay titled Homage of the Colonies. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Is the Dutch Royal Family’s Golden Carriage So Controversial?," 15 Sep. 2020 The painting on the left side of the triptych, which features a man in 17th-century dress peering at what his telltale posture suggests might be a smartphone, connects this history to the present-day reality of Chinese manufacturing's global reach. Jameson Fitzpatrick, New York Times, "As Far as Luc Tuymans Is Concerned, Nothing Is Original," 20 Oct. 2020 The royal family has previously stated that the triptych itself will not be removed from the carriage. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Is the Dutch Royal Family’s Golden Carriage So Controversial?," 15 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'triptych.' 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 triptych

1731, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for triptych

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

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Time Traveler for triptych

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The first known use of triptych was in 1731

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Last Updated

8 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Triptych.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for triptych


How to pronounce triptych (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of triptych

: a picture (such as a painting) that has three panels placed next to each other

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