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tessellate

[ verb tes-uh-leyt; adjective tes-uh-lit, -leyt ]
/ verb ˈtɛs əˌleɪt; adjective ˈtɛs ə lɪt, -ˌleɪt /
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verb (used with object), tes·sel·lat·ed, tes·sel·lat·ing.

to form of small squares or blocks, as floors or pavements; form or arrange in a checkered or mosaic pattern.

adjective

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Also tes·se·late .

Origin of tessellate

First recorded in 1785–95; from Latin tessellātus “mosaic,” equivalent to tessell(a) “small square stone or cube” (diminutive of tessera + -ātus; see origin at tessera,-ate1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does tessellate mean?

To tessellate is to form a pattern of shapes that fit together perfectly, without any gaps.

The resulting pattern can be called a tessellation. Such a pattern can be described as tessellated. This often often refers to a pattern that includes a repetition of one particular shape, such as the repetition of squares in a checkerboard. But tessellations can also be formed from multiple shapes. For example, a classic black-and-white soccer ball is an example of a tessellation that consists of two different shapes: hexagons and pentagons.

Tesselate can be used in the sense of someone doing the tessellating (as in I tessellated these squares to form a checkerboard) or things tessellating by themselves (as in The shapes tessellate to form a pattern.)

A tessellation is a kind of mosaic. They’re often seen on surfaces that have been covered in tiles. That’s because floor and wall tiles are often designed so that they can tessellate—fit together perfectly, without any overlap or gaps.

Less commonly, tessellate can be used as an adjective meaning the same thing as a tessellated. Tessellate is sometimes spelled with one l, as tesselate.

yellow and orange honeycomb pattern

Source: Getty. These hexagons have been tessellated to form a tessellation.

Example: Hexagons were tessellated together to form a honeycomb pattern on the side of the building.

Where does tessellate come from?

The first records of the word tessellate come from the late 1700s. It ultimately comes from the Latin word tessellātus, which means “mosaic” and is related to the Latin tessell(a), meaning “a small square stone or cube.”

A pattern consisting entirely of squares is probably the most basic kind of tessellation. But multiple shapes can be tessellated to form a pattern that perfectly fits together. Many traditional quilts are formed by tessellating multiple kinds of shapes. Tessellations can even be found in nature, such as in the patterns on the skin or fur of certain animals or the shapes that form in dried mud. The artist M. C. Escher is known for creating intricate patterns by tessellating irregular images, such as birds and fish.

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What are some other forms related to tessellate?

What are some synonyms for tessellate?

  • tile (when tile is used as a verb)

What are some words that share a root or word element with tessellate

What are some words that often get used in discussing tessellate?

How is tessellate used in real life?

Tessellate is a somewhat technical term. Tessellations can be found in all kinds of artwork, such as tilework and quilts, but they can also occur naturally.

 

 

Try using tessellate!

Is tessellate used correctly in the following sentence?

The artist tessellated the images to create a continuous pattern with no end and no beginning.

Example sentences from the Web for tessellate

  • The bright mosaic, that with storied beauty, the floor of nature's temple tessellate.

    Pearls of Thought|Maturin M. Ballou

British Dictionary definitions for tessellate

tessellate
/ (ˈtɛsɪˌleɪt) /

verb

(tr) to construct, pave, or inlay with a mosaic of small tiles
(intr) (of identical shapes) to fit together exactlytriangles will tessellate but octagons will not

Word Origin for tessellate

C18: from Latin tessellātus checked, from tessella small stone cube, from tessera
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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