Definition of arabesque in English:



  • 1Ballet
    A posture in which one leg is extended backwards at right angles, the torso bent forwards, and the arms outstretched, one forwards and one backwards.

    • ‘With their sculptural groupings of precisely calibrated arabesques, these dances distilled Ashton's personal classicism to pure essence.’
    • ‘Three men in white shirts, black pants and starched ties do wobbly arabesques as if struggling against the wind.’
    • ‘The initial twelve-minute aerial dance found them on a rope suspended from the ceiling, executing arabesques while spinning with sublime grace.’
    • ‘The height of the extended legs in the arabesques was uniform throughout the shades and the spacing between dancers was as close to perfection as one could reasonably wish.’
    • ‘Ballet classes have begun right here in Chiswick, aimed not at schoolgirls or internationally acclaimed dancing stars, but at adults who may never have performed a pointe or an arabesque in their lives.’
  • 2An ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in ancient Islamic art.

    as modifier ‘arabesque scrolls’
    • ‘Add to this a loose, flowing pattern of arabesques and vines, rendered in paint and other mediums.’
    • ‘In his late style the backgrounds are light, the register of colour is greatly heightened, and the emphasis is on the decorative design of swirling Rococo arabesques of flowers and foliage.’
    • ‘Other panels are decorated with arabesques consisting of delicate scrolls incorporating stylized sunflowers and anthemia rendered in very thin lines of ivory-colored paint.’
    • ‘Yet Matisse continued to work in this trademark style, with its emphasis on arabesque lines, bright colors and decoration, throughout his long artistic life.’
    • ‘‘The arabesque patterns symbolize the five important attributes of the Koran,’ he continues.’
    • ‘It is decorated with birds and various animals set against a lush pattern of arabesques - intricate patterns of interlaced lines.’
    • ‘Of Near Eastern inspiration are the arabesques, ogees, scrolls, and flower heads outlined in raised gold paste.’
    • ‘In some paintings this element takes the form of a single continuous line, while in others it includes shorter line fragments drifting off as disembodied arabesques.’
    • ‘Italian sgraffito designs were mostly scrolls or arabesque patterns.’
    • ‘A single-panel work has arabesques of vines and blooms surrounding the word ‘OOPS!’’
    • ‘These elements are set against a large field in shades of pink, swept with arabesques of grays and dashes of white, sometimes with light impasto in the brushwork.’
    • ‘He draws arabesques with charcoal and thinned black acrylic, creating labyrinths of interconnected markings often structured by a loose grid.’
    • ‘The latter's designs for arabesques of ironwork for garden gates, are still to be found in the Stifling papers in Glasgow.’
    • ‘The exterior is in typical late Victorian style, the arabesque influences and designs preserved for the interior.’
    • ‘The curtain's incised pattern of soft green, stemlike arabesques recalls 19 th-century wallpaper design and, at the same time, snakes or lizards curling into themselves.’
    • ‘Such circles and lines, plus arabesques and rectilinear passages, occur in most of the work that follows.’
    • ‘Cassatt's color prints, with their spatial compression, play of abstract patterns, bold blocks of color, and arabesque lines, fulfilled the conditions of this new symbolist art.’
    • ‘It is to be noted that in ‘classical’ Islamic architecture in Persia, decoration took the form of very geometric carving - arabesque - in intricate patterns, as well as verses from the Koran.’
    • ‘Matisse said he was possessed at this point by a love of line and of the arabesque - ‘those givers of life’ - which stirred his senses and appeased his spirit.’
    • ‘Elsewhere in his oeuvre, Aboriginal dot patterns, Islamic arabesques and Chinese fire motifs lend a mystical, ancient aspect to his art.’
    elaborate, ornate, fancy
    View synonyms
  • 3Music
    A passage or composition with fanciful ornamentation of the melody.

    • ‘The orchestra provides ‘a resonating environment’ for the melodies and arabesques of the flute.’
    • ‘Now, however, each melody becomes enwrapped in a vocal arabesque of such complexity that it almost vanishes and the sounds being made are not only intrusive but downright unpleasant.’
    • ‘The balance between instruments is especially fine when the inner voices begin to spin their own tentative arabesques.’
    • ‘The Beauty Pill are a surgically precise band whose compositions perform limber arabesques without losing a step, and Clark's homespun production accentuates every contortion.’
    • ‘The movement had the dreamy, almost improvisatory aura of an arabesque.’


Mid 17th century: from French, from Italian arabesco ‘in the Arabic style’, from arabo ‘Arab’.