Definition of polychrome in English:



  • Painted or printed in several colours.

    ‘a precious polychrome ikon’
    • ‘Ukiyo-e prints began to be produced in the late 17th century, but in 1764 Harunobu produced the first polychrome print.’
    • ‘Toshusai Sharaku was a rogue artist during the famous ukiyo-e period of polychrome wood-block printmaking in Japan's 17th to 19th centuries.’
    • ‘Some were beautifully illustrated in color; no doubt providing the source of some of the polychrome flower painting that sometimes complemented black and white penwork in the late 1820s and 1830s.’
    • ‘One of these, named after Olerys himself, consists of soft yellow-ocher swags and garlands surrounding polychrome medallions depicting mythological scenes.’
    • ‘Fabrics varied, and included calendared or glazed fabrics of wool, plain or floral printed calicos and muslins, and glazed chintz monochrome or polychrome prints.’


mass noun
  • 1Varied colouring.

    ‘Modigliani continued to carve his large heads, sometimes in polychrome, until 1916’
    • ‘Other of the smaller works are painted in polychrome.’
    • ‘The Nyoirin Kannon is described as decorated by saishiki, or polychrome, by the Kanshinji Register, which also notes the lecture hall guardian statue, Bishamontenno, as having saishiki decoration.’
    • ‘Now though, in its restored polychrome of ochres, greens and blues, it harmonises perfectly with the building's essentially Italianate feel.’
    • ‘It could not have been lustred, and the bright polychrome is entirely out of key with the blue and gold of the other tiles.’
    1. 1.1count noun A work of art in several colours, especially a statue.
      • ‘All his polychromes were thought to have been lost or defaced, until some of them were accidentally found just two years ago, hidden under whitewash and plaster, by a German film team making a documentary on the writer.’
      • ‘The Virgin is wearing a long flowing gown and traces of the original polychrome show that this was once red in colour.’
      • ‘The discovery made international headlines, and specialists arrived from Poland to examine the find - polychromes depicting colorful, fanciful figures, some with faces bearing a striking resemblance to Felix Landau and his mistress.’
      • ‘This piece also reflects the fact that colors and surfaces change over time, so that monochromes frequently evolve into polychromes, or lose their original texture, hue or intensity.’


[with object]usually as adjective polychromed
  • Execute (a work of art) in several colours.

    ‘a polychromed bust of a young girl’
    • ‘The tomb consists of a prominent polychromed alabaster effigy of the duke lying in state on a slab of heavy black marble surrounded by heraldic symbols.’
    • ‘The pediment is painted jarrah fixed on a steel frame, and the bird itself is cast aluminium which has been painted to resemble polychromed hardwood.’
    • ‘Sures must have had tongue in cheek when she contrived Ghirlandina, a cast-paper relief of an old, crooked, leaning tower, wonderfully abraded and polychromed.’
    • ‘Similarly, it is typical for bodhisattva statues and those of deva or lesser deities to be polychromed.’
    • ‘In 1911 he met Braque, and between 1914 and 1915 he produced the Constructions series, polychromed wood and plaster sculptures with an emphatic frontality, which investigated juxtapositions of volume.’


Early 19th century: from French, from Greek polukhrōmos, from polu- ‘many’ + khrōma ‘colour’.