noun, plural cam·e·os.

a technique of engraving upon a gem or other stone, as onyx, in such a way that an underlying stone of one color is exposed as a background for a low-relief design of another color.
a gem or other stone so engraved.
a literary sketch, small dramatic scene, or the like, that effectively presents or depicts its subject.
Also called cameo role. a minor part played by a prominent performer in a single scene of a motion picture or a television play.

Origin of cameo

1375–1425; < Italian cam(m)eo < Old French camaieu, of uncertain origin; replacing late Middle English camew, cameu < Old French Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cameo

Contemporary Examples of cameo

Historical Examples of cameo

  • I had not my veil on, nor my rings, and my cameo belt was not fastened.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • At her throat, she had a cameo, and on her left hand, an amethyst set in tiny pearls.


    Holworthy Hall

  • Here is money and here is the cameo you have so often admired.

  • And she detached the cameo which fastened the peplum upon her shoulder.

    King Candaules

    Thophile Gautier

  • “And Miss Murgatroyd could have sailed away in her cameo,” he said.

    The Mistress of Shenstone

    Florence L. Barclay

British Dictionary definitions for cameo


noun plural cameos

  1. a medallion, as on a brooch or ring, with a profile head carved in relief
  2. (as modifier)a cameo necklace
an engraving upon a gem or other stone of at least two differently coloured layers, such as sardonyx, so carved that the background is of a different colour from the raised design
a stone with such an engraving
  1. a single and often brief dramatic scene played by a well-known actor or actress in a film or television play
  2. (as modifier)a cameo role
  1. a short literary work or dramatic sketch
  2. (as modifier)a cameo sketch

Word Origin for cameo

C15: from Italian cammeo, of uncertain origin
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

Word Origin and History for cameo

early 15c., kaadmaheu, camew, chamehieux and many other spellings (from early 13c. in Anglo-Latin), "carved precious stone with two layers of colors," from Old French camaieu and directly from Medieval Latin cammaeus, of unknown origin, perhaps ultimately from Arabic qamaa'il "flower buds," or Persian chumahan "agate." Transferred sense of "small character or part that stands out from other minor parts" in a play, etc., is from 1928, from earlier meaning "short literary sketch or portrait" (1851), a transferred sense from cameo silhouettes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper