[pas-pahr-too; French pahs-par-too]
noun, plural passe-par·touts [pas-pahr-tooz; French pahs-par-too] /ˌpæs pɑrˈtuz; French pɑs parˈtu/.
  1. something that passes everywhere or provides a universal means of passage.
  2. a master key; skeleton key.
  3. an ornamental mat for a picture.
  4. a method of framing in which a piece of glass is placed over a picture and is affixed to a backing by means of adhesive strips of paper or other material pasted over the edges.
  5. paper prepared for this purpose.

Origin of passe-partout

1635–45; < French: literally, (it) passes everywhere Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for passe-partout

Historical Examples of passe-partout

  • So if it wasn't a passe-partout, it was non-suited, quoad existence.

    A Likely Story

    William De Morgan

  • When the sections are finished, fasten them together with the passe-partout paper.

    Handicraft for Girls

    Idabelle McGlauflin

  • It was from Goethe; it was lettered in old German characters, framed in passe-partout, and hung above the mantel.

    The Barrier

    Allen French

  • Book-cloth or any firm material can be used instead of the passe-partout paper.

    Handicraft for Girls

    Idabelle McGlauflin

  • "Here's the Little Colonel's corner," said Mary, leading him to a group of large photographs framed in passe-partout.

    The Little Colonel in Arizona

    Annie Fellows Johnston

British Dictionary definitions for passe-partout


  1. a mounting for a picture in which strips of strong gummed paper are used to bind together the glass, picture, and backing
  2. the gummed paper used for this
  3. a mat, often decorated, on which a picture is mounted
  4. something that secures entry everywhere, esp a master key

Word Origin for passe-partout

C17: from French, literally: pass everywhere
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 passe-partout

"master-key," 1670s, French, literally "pass everywhere," from passer "to pass" (see pass (v.)) + partout "everywhere," from par "through" (see per) + tout "all."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper