Definition of cameo in English:


nounPlural cameos

  • 1A piece of jewellery, typically oval in shape, consisting of a portrait in profile carved in relief on a background of a different colour.

    as modifier ‘a cameo brooch’
    • ‘Her favorite collectibles included jeweled fans, jewels, and objets d' art, although her overall collection included everything from royal seals to cameos and from Fabergé animals to gold boxes encrusted with jewels.’
    • ‘Shell cameos had been popular in the sixteenth century, but it was in the nineteenth century that the art flourished, with the helmet shell and the queen conch shell judged the most suitable for cameo carving.’
    • ‘He flew over smoking Mt. Vesuvius and brought his wife and mother cameos carved from its lava.’
    • ‘The 183 objects in the show include paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries, glass, arms and armor, cameos, ivories, jewelry, hardstone carvings, and metalwork.’
    • ‘Equally adept at all subject matter, Lycett decorated vases and plaques with medallions imitating cameos, polychrome figures derived from Pompeian frescoes, and genre scenes.’
    • ‘More within the reach of the novice collector are the myriad of smaller novelty pieces, from the cameo brooch to the charm bracelet.’
    • ‘On her right wrist she conspicuously displays a cameo bracelet bearing the profile of Louis XV.’
    • ‘She looked smart in her Napoleon-shaped hat, and a silk rose-coloured scarf pinned with a cameo brooch, when we went to the town for provisions to stock the larder.’
    • ‘Small oval portrait cameos, chosen and hung by Dors, decorate the walls.’
    • ‘The depicted cameo bracelet is based (if somewhat loosely) on a piece of jewelry that Pompadour actually owned.’
    • ‘Early cameos are carved from hardstones such as onyx, sardonyx, or agate, while later a number of less expensive substances were used that were also easier to carve.’
    • ‘Golden chains crept their way like unkempt vines across dark, mahogany shelves in between elegant cameos and glittering rings.’
    • ‘One might almost be tempted to look for the cameo profile of a queen.’
    • ‘Upon opening it, she revealed the pendant, picture, and chipped cameo brooch.’
    • ‘The cameo is detachable and can be worn as a pendant.’
    • ‘Likewise, jeweller Octavia Cook's cameo brooches, though very nice objects, aren't completely comfortable in this context.’
    • ‘It must be said, however, that the Fogg portrait is not absolutely coherent as a mirror image because the cameo bracelet the marquise wears is not shown reversed.’
    • ‘Castellani also incorporated cameos, scarabs, and enamel into pieces of jewelry as had been done in ancient times.’
    • ‘We depend on them and await them, arriving over the centuries in their cameo brooches and porkpie hats.’
    • ‘There is her enamelled watch and chatelaine, a graduated string of amethyst beads, and a locket containing her hair, its cover painted with her miniature, veiled like a Roman Empress, simulating a cameo portrait.’
    embossed, relief, relievo, cameo, die-stamped, thermographed, ribbed
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  • 2A short descriptive literary sketch which neatly encapsulates someone or something.

    ‘cameos of street life’
    • ‘Consider for a moment that we may be watching for the wrong thing; it's not at all about the political issues, cameos or adlibs, but a dramatic story that unfolds so offhandedly it catches us unaware.’
    • ‘This means that by the end of this year, you'll be able to own every single Marx Brothers feature - apart from The Story of Mankind with its brief, pointless cameos - for under a hundred bucks.’
    • ‘Two marvellously contrasting pictures emerge from these stories, cameos of Ireland old and Ireland new.’
    • ‘So I long for the energetic verve of a Saki, the narrative vigour and cultural cameos of a Maugham, the imaginative bizarreness of a Roald Dahl or the feminine insights of a Doris Lessing.’
    description, portrait, vignette, profile, portrayal, depiction
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    1. 2.1 A small character part in a play or film, played by a distinguished actor.
      as modifier ‘he played numerous cameo roles’
      • ‘He was in constant demand for short cameos but many offers fell through and some of what he did film was never released.’
      • ‘Frequent cameos by top-tier actors pepper the film.’
      • ‘Fans of French film history will enjoy cameos by New Wave icons Agnès Varda and Anna Karina, and the loving homages to classic Parisian cinematic locales.’
      • ‘Australia's world champion surfer Layne Beachley made what she believes was the shortest cameo appearance ever in the surfing film, Blue Crush, which was released last year.’
      • ‘Maybe as a result of all of this, comic book icon Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in the film too, as part of an in-store signing at one of the stores.’
      • ‘Muppets From Space has the usual assortment of human actors in supporting roles and cameos.’
      • ‘Ironically, it's Heston, in a small cameo role as an aging ape, who has the film's best moment.’
      • ‘As I said, the one hundredth reviewer was going to get a treat and that would be a cameo in the story.’
      • ‘Robert did the soundtrack and has a small cameo in the film.’
      • ‘Moments of inspiration include the opening sequence, in which a group of seven-year-olds read essays about their families, and a short bit featuring cameos by Matt Damon and Jason Lee.’
      • ‘There are also a few high profile cameos, including appearances by Eugene Levy and Julianne Moore.’
      • ‘Early roles included a cameo in the film ‘Kudisai’ and the lead in the play ‘Irandavan Pesukiren’.’
      • ‘Abdul's cameo came in a sketch that recreated a typical Idol audition.’
      • ‘Welles, as Harry Lime, has only a short amount of screen time - little more than a cameo - but of course he steals it.’
      • ‘The film's director, Joel Schumacher, who discovered Ireland's newest film star, Colin Farrell, said the Dublin-born actor would play a cameo role in the film.’
      • ‘I should have written him a cameo in the story, just for you.’
      • ‘Recently, TV audiences also saw the actor play a cameo role in the award winning series, The League of Gentlemen.’
      • ‘Buster Keaton plays a cameo role as a member of this sad entourage of icons who have outlived themselves.’
      • ‘Ramis is great whether he is directing, writing, or just acting, and he plays a short cameo in the picture as well.’
      • ‘The only small joy was a cameo by grand character actor James Rebhorn, who was fantastic as Headmaster Trask in Scent Of A Woman.’


Late Middle English: from Old French camahieu, cama(h)u; later influenced by Italian cam(m)eo, from medieval Latin cammaeus, related to the Old French word.