Definition of bistre in English:


(US bister)


mass noun
  • 1A brownish-yellow pigment made from the soot of burnt wood.

    • ‘The color of bistre varies with the wood from which the soot was derived, but in general it has a warm, transparent brown tone.’
    • ‘De los Reyes has created new bister on paper works, stainless steel sculptures and exquisite monochromatic paintings in this exciting follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 exhibition.’
    • ‘It is a drawing in bister and reed pen on paper with no watermark.’
    1. 1.1 A brownish-yellow colour.
      • ‘Conté sticks and pencils are available in a wide range of colours including the traditional black, white, sepia, bistre and sanguine.’
      • ‘By little and little, the surface of the plate takes a yellow tint, which darkens more and more, approaching to bistre.’
      • ‘The colors on French colonial stamps are often brilliant and in unusual combinations: fuchsia and turquoise, blue and orange, purple and bistre.’


Early 18th century: from French, of unknown origin.