• synonyms


noun, plural tes·ser·ae [tes-uh-ree] /ˈtɛs əˌri/.
  1. one of the small pieces used in mosaic work.
  2. a small square of bone, wood, or the like, used in ancient times as a token, tally, ticket, etc.
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Origin of tessera

1640–50; < Latin < Greek (Ionic) tésseres four
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tesserae

Historical Examples

  • And the tesserae do not fall out like those you bought on the Rialto.

    Creative Chemistry

    Edwin E. Slosson

  • The floors of Roman buildings were paved with tiny blocks of brick called 'tesserae', three to four inches long and one inch wide.


    Charles E. Kelsey

  • The attention of archaeologists has been recently directed to the tesserae of gladiators.

  • And the earlier its date the more surely was it a mosaic, not in the form of tesserae, but in the manner known as “opus sectile.”

  • Tesserae, shaped and marked with pips like modern dice, were evolved from the tali, knuckle-bones with only four flat sides.

British Dictionary definitions for tesserae


noun plural -serae (-səˌriː)
  1. a small square tile of stone, glass, etc, used in mosaics
  2. a die, tally, etc, used in classical times, made of bone or wood
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Derived Formstesseral, adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Latin, from Ionic Greek tesseres four
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 tesserae



plural tesserae, 1650s, from Latin tessera, from Ionic Greek tesseres (Attic tessares) "four" (see four).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper