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

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 Like Flag, Usuyuki (1982) is a horizontal triptych. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, 22 Sep. 2021 The triptych is by Paolo Veneziano, the most important painter in Venice during his lifetime (ca. 1295-1362). Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2021 Her finished image of the running Virgin was part of a larger triptych that celebrates working-class Chicanas of different ages and body types — and the idea of matriarchy itself. New York Times, 18 Sep. 2021 In the middle of it all was the largest panel of the exhibit, a triptych of three Siriano black dresses from 2018—the most of any designer featured in this year's galleries. Faran Krentcil, Harper's BAZAAR, 13 Sep. 2021 What’s especially interesting about this triptych, which is owned by the Galleria Nazionale in Parma, Italy, is that Paolo painted another version. Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2021 Because Léger follows both the film’s geographical path and its story, the book has the sharpest, most satisfying narrative in the triptych. Nicole Rudick, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2021 Louis Vuitton, a triptych painting by Alex Katz of the handsome founder, and a documentary debuting on Apple TV+. Steff Yotka, Vogue, 3 Aug. 2021 Understatedly hysterical, this triptych sees Huppert as multiple iterations of Anne, a charming tourist meeting different men in each segment. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2021

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.

See More

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

Learn More About triptych

Time Traveler for triptych

Time Traveler

The first known use of triptych was in 1731

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About triptych

Dictionary Entries Near triptych




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for triptych

Cite this Entry

“Triptych.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for triptych



English Language Learners Definition of triptych

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

More from Merriam-Webster on triptych

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for triptych Encyclopedia article about triptych


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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