noun ver·nis·sage \ˌver-ni-ˈsäzh\

Definition of vernissage

  1. :  a private showing or preview of an art exhibition

vernissage was our Word of the Day on 01/17/2013. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

Vernissage has its roots in the old practice of setting aside a day before an exhibition's opening for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings-a tradition that reportedly dates to at least 1809, when it was instituted by England's Royal Academy of Arts. (One famous member of the Academy, Joseph Mallord William Turner, was notorious for making major changes to his paintings on this day.) English speakers originally referred to this day of finishing touches simply as "varnishing day," but sometime around 1912 we also began using the French term vernissage (literally, "varnishing"). Today, however, you are more likely to encounter vino than varnish at a vernissage, which is often a gala event marking the opening of an exhibition.

Origin and Etymology of vernissage

borrowed from French, “day before an exhibition opens reserved for artists to varnish and put finishing touches on their paintings” (probably after English varnishing day), literally, “varnishing,” from vernisser “to varnish” (going back to Medieval French vernecier, vernicier) + -age -age — more at 2varnish

First Known Use: 1912

Learn More about vernissage

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up vernissage? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trip made at another's expense

Get Word of the Day daily email!