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[ar-uh-besk] /ˌær əˈbɛsk/
Fine Arts. a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif.
a pose in ballet in which the dancer stands on one leg with one arm extended in front and the other leg and arm extended behind.
a short, fanciful musical piece, typically for piano.
any ornament or ornamental object, as a rug or mosaic, in which flowers, foliage, fruits, vases, animals, and figures are represented in a fancifully combined pattern.
decorated with or characterized by arabesques:
arabesque design.
Origin of arabesque
1605-15; < French < Italian arabesco ornament in Islamic style, literally, Arabian, equivalent to Arab(o) Arab + -esco -esque
Related forms
arabesquely, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for arabesque
Contemporary Examples
  • arabesque focuses on Turkey, Morocco and Lebanon, with the added bonus of a beautiful design and great photos.

    Fresh Picks Jody Adams April 27, 2010
Historical Examples
  • When all was ready, he drew some arabesque forms with his pencil on the board.

  • A "Schumannesque" is written closely on the lines of Schumann's "arabesque."

  • There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments.

  • The ceiling and walls were rich with tessellated and arabesque work.

    The Pirate City R.M. Ballantyne
  • His sketches of life are arabesque in their strange combinations.

    Mark Twain Archibald Henderson
  • These are cut in arabesque designs, and many of them are very handsome.

  • On the arabesque in which the painting is set is a cartel inscribed with name and date.

    Pintoricchio Evelyn March Phillipps
  • The secretary absently drew an arabesque on the blotting-pad.

    Tales Of Men And Ghosts Edith Wharton
  • And now you just sit down at that piano and play me Debussy's 'arabesque.'

    Three Soldiers John Dos Passos
British Dictionary definitions for arabesque


(ballet) a classical position in which the dancer has one leg raised behind and both arms stretched out in one of several conventional poses
(music) a piece or movement with a highly ornamented or decorated melody
  1. a type of curvilinear decoration in painting, metalwork, etc, with intricate intertwining leaf, flower, animal, or geometrical designs
  2. a design of flowing lines
designating, of, or decorated in this style
Word Origin
C18: from French, from Italian arabesco in the Arabic style
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for arabesque

1610s, "Moorish or Arabic ornamental design," from French arabesque (16c.), from Italian arabesco, from Arabo "Arab," with reference to Moorish architecture. As a ballet pose, first attested 1830. Musical sense, in reference to an ornamented theme, is from 1864, originally the title given by Robert Schumann to one of his piano pieces.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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