[kee-ahr-uh-skyoo r-oh]
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noun, plural chi·a·ro·scu·ros.
  1. the distribution of light and shade in a picture.
  2. Painting. the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade, especially to enhance the delineation of character and for general dramatic effect: Rembrandt is a master of chiaroscuro.
  3. a woodcut print in which the colors are produced by the use of different blocks with different colors.
  4. a sketch in light and shade.

Origin of chiaroscuro

1680–90; < Italian, equivalent to chiaro bright (< Latin clārus) + oscuro dark (< Latin obscūrus). See clear, obscure Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for chiaroscuro


noun plural -ros
  1. the artistic distribution of light and dark masses in a picture
  2. monochrome painting using light and dark only, as in grisaille
Derived Formschiaroscurist, nounchiaroscurism, noun

Word Origin for chiaroscuro

C17: from Italian, from chiaro clear + oscuro obscure
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 chiaroscuro

1680s, "disposition of light and dark in a picture," literally "bright-dark," from Italian chiaro "clear, bright" (from Latin clarus; see clear (adj.)) + oscuro (from Latin obscurus; see obscure (adj.)). Related: Chiaroscurist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper