1. a thin and usually oval or oblong board or tablet with a thumb hole at one end, used by painters for holding and mixing colors.
  2. any other flat surface used by a painter for this purpose.
  3. the set of colors on such a board or surface.
  4. the range of colors used by a particular artist.
  5. the variety of techniques or range of any art: a lush but uneven musical palette.
  6. the complete range of colors made available by a computer graphics card, from which a user or program may choose those to be displayed.
  7. (in ancient Egyptian art) a somewhat flattish slate object of various shapes, carved with commemorative scenes or motifs or, especially in the smaller pieces, containing a recessed area probably for holding eye makeup and often used as a votive offering.
  8. Also pallette. Armor. a small plate defending the front of the armpit when the arm is lifted; gusset.

Origin of palette

1615–25; < French, Middle French < Italian paletta, diminutive of pala shovel < Latin pāla; see -ette
Related formspal·ette·like, adjective
Can be confusedpalate palette pallet Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for palette

Contemporary Examples of palette

Historical Examples of palette

  • In our rides around the Palette I saw Wahb's tracks once again.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • I had laid my palette on the floor, and was standing with my hands in my pockets.

  • He had taken up his palette and was shuffling about in front of his picture.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • He came to open the door himself, holding his palette and brushes.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • He brandished his palette and brushes aloft, in his clenched fists.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for palette


  1. Also: pallet a flat piece of wood, plastic, etc, used by artists as a surface on which to mix their paints
  2. the range of colours characteristic of a particular artist, painting, or school of paintinga restricted palette
  3. the available range of colours or patterns that can be displayed by a computer on a visual display unit
  4. either of the plates of metal attached by a strap to the cuirass in a suit of armour to protect the armpits

Word Origin for palette

C17: from French, diminutive of pale shovel, from Latin pala spade


Avoid confusion with palate, pallet 1
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 palette

1620s, "flat thin tablet used by an artist to lay and mix colors," from French palette, from Old French palete "small shovel, blade" (13c.) diminutive of pale "shovel, blade," from Latin pala "spade, shoulder blade," probably from PIE *pak-slo-, from root *pag- (see pact). Transferred sense of "colors used by a particular artist" is from 1882.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper