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[pee-ey-tah, pyey-tah, pee-ey-tuh, pyey-] /ˌpi eɪˈtɑ, pyeɪˈtɑ, piˈeɪ tə, ˈpyeɪ-/
noun, (sometimes lowercase) Fine Arts.
a representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of the dead Christ, usually shown held on her lap.
Origin of Pietà
1635-45; < Italian: literally, pity < Latin pietās piety; cf. pity Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pieta
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was when she came to pictures of the pieta that she burst out.

    The Rainbow D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence
  • You didn't read the words in raised letters on the base of the pieta?

    The Last Miracle M. P. Shiel
  • She remembered how once she had stood with him in St. Peter's—in front of the "pieta."

    The Higher Court Mary Stewart Daggett
  • Aida closes the scene with the same prayer to Heaven "pieta!"

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • All the saints were there in assorted sizes, the pieta, the cradle in the manger.

    Fanny Herself Edna Ferber
  • We might, perhaps, have recognized it in the pieta in St. Peter's.

    Emerson and Other Essays John Jay Chapman
  • In the same hall is the last work of Titian, a pieta, or figure of the dead Christ upon his mother's knees.

    From the Oak to the Olive Julia Ward Howe
  • The pieta is not at all in any of the moods of old Northern work, and it bears the initials of Max Dees, who most likely made it.

    The Last Miracle M. P. Shiel
  • Langler said hardly anything, and only once spoke to Herr Tschudi, when he called out: "Is this pieta ancient?"

    The Last Miracle M. P. Shiel
British Dictionary definitions for pieta


a sculpture, painting, or drawing of the dead Christ, supported by the Virgin Mary
Word Origin
Italian: pity, from Latin pietāspiety
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 pieta



"Virgin holding the dead body of Christ," 1640s, from Italian pieta, from Latin pietatem (see piety).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pieta in Culture
Pietà [(pyay-tah; pee-ay-tah)]

A painting, drawing, or sculpture of Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the dead body of Jesus. The word means “pity” in Italian. (See photo, next page.)

Note: The most famous of four Pietàs by Michelangelo is a sculpture at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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