Definition of Byzantine in US English:



  • 1Relating to Byzantium (now Istanbul), the Byzantine Empire, or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    • ‘Among other benefits, this dialogue brought the Orthodox theology of the patristic and early Byzantine period into renewed prominence in theological debates.’
    • ‘The picture of forceful barbarian invasion in the fifth century may have been influenced by some Byzantine historians of the sixth century, overanxious to justify Justinian's wars of reconquest in the western empire.’
    • ‘As these were largely independent, that Constantinople survived at all was largely because its enemies were as suspicious of each other as they were eager to recapture the Byzantine capitol.’
    • ‘Plato's Academy was created around 390 B.C. and had remained in existence until the Byzantine emperor Justinian, closed its doors in 529.’
    • ‘The root of the matter, of course, was presumably the re-establishment of the Roman Empire in the West without Byzantine authorization.’
    • ‘An immense corpus of commentary grew up in Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine times around Dionysius' brief text.’
    • ‘The greatest Byzantine emperor was probably Justinian the Great who ruled from ad 527 to 565.’
    • ‘This, one of the two main imperial palaces in the city from the 5th century onward, eventually became the only court of the Byzantine emperors.’
    • ‘Extensive quarrying in Byzantine times has removed all evidence of earlier levels here, but topographically a main entrance into the temenos on Temple Hill in antiquity on this side makes the most sense.’
    • ‘Although the church is closer theologically to Constantinople than to Rome, its rite includes Latin as well as Byzantine elements.’
    • ‘Surprising to visitors are mosques that stand side-by-side with Byzantine Orthodox churches.’
    • ‘A figure holding a staff similar to representations of the Baptist in early Byzantine art is among images cut into the rock during the fourth and fifth centuries, by which time the cave may have become a shrine to the Baptist.’
    • ‘With the exception of the Maronites and Byzantine Italians, each Eastern church has its mirror image on both the Catholic and Orthodox side.’
    • ‘At Yarmuk in 636, the Muslims defeated the Byzantine army.’
    • ‘What you are seeing in these churches is a reflection of the long tradition of Eastern Christianity, in both its Orthodox Christian and Byzantine Catholic variants.’
    • ‘When the Muslim Arabs began to conquer the Middle East in the seventh century, Byzantine power was dented and eastern lands were lost.’
    • ‘While barbarian invaders overran the Western empire, the Byzantine emperors always hoped to defeat them and reunite the empire.’
    • ‘At the end of the first millennium, he says, the smart money would have bet that Europe would become Muslim or Nordic or Slavic pagan, or maybe Byzantine Christian.’
    • ‘The Byzantines still controlled Sicily and southern Italy, plus various other outposts, and the Byzantine navy still controlled the eastern and central Mediterranean.’
    • ‘Trust us, the bishops have argued, because we alone are in the position to navigate the Byzantine corridors of the Vatican and at the same time represent the peculiarities of the American experience.’
    1. 1.1 Of an ornate artistic and architectural style that developed in the Byzantine Empire and spread especially to Italy and Russia. The art is generally rich and stylized (as in religious icons) and the architecture typified by many-domed, highly decorated churches.
      • ‘The rusting metal fence covered in layers of fading posters, which surrounds the grand Byzantine style building, gives some indication of the time that the renovation project has been underway.’
      • ‘Other rooms have a distinctively oriental flavour; the Throne Room is decked out in ornate Byzantine style with a great domed blue ceiling covered with stars and a huge sunburst.’
      • ‘Even the monumental Marian shrine in Washington, D.C., replete with a plethora of elegant Byzantine images, feels cold and inauthentic to me.’
      • ‘Within the gallery, no explanation was given of how the Byzantine style or which Byzantine style arrived in northern Europe.’
      • ‘The lamb stands in a green pasture against a Byzantine style gold background.’
      • ‘The interior is therefore a shock: instead of Byzantine frescoes, an ornate altar at the west end and a mosaic floor, there is empty space.’
      • ‘She dressed the part and designed furnishings for the family castles in a romantic, Byzantine revival style.’
      • ‘Each portrait is encircled with a foliate wreath and surrounded by classical rinceaux against a Byzantine style gold background.’
      • ‘The Byzantine style mosaics on the interior mostly depict scenes from the Old Testament, and the large mosaic on the facade portrays scenes from the New Testament.’
      • ‘Other sources claim that they adopted a Byzantine style.’
      • ‘A cluster of old nuns flit around Byzantine style interiors while a bitter monk shows me his pet dog and cat aptly called Billy and Monica.’
  • 2(of a system or situation) excessively complicated, and typically involving a great deal of administrative detail.

    ‘Byzantine insurance regulations’
    • ‘Once in the United States, they negotiate a Byzantine bureaucracy for green cards, legal papers, matters that non-immigrants do not often understand too well.’
    • ‘Europe, in fact, is a maze of Byzantine regulations.’
    • ‘It is true that America's tax system is an abysmal and Byzantine mess.’
    • ‘People may come to them who have the experience of canon law, of church law, or they may come to them with Byzantine administrative regulations, and different tribes will come with different customary laws.’
    • ‘Protectionism, a lack of standards, and indifference toward backward and sideways thinking can create Byzantine systems that interfere with the user.’
    • ‘Inside the party, a Byzantine factional system has ensured that power is exercised behind the scenes by a handful of ‘shadow shoguns’.’
    • ‘The truly Byzantine Social Security legislation came a very distant second, then all other legislation complexity was too small to measure by comparison.’
    • ‘The organisers have set up an extensive network of international art pavilions in record time, on a reduced budget and amidst a Byzantine bureaucracy.’
    • ‘An ability that must have come in useful when trying to navigate his way through the Byzantine bureaucracy for which Whitehall is famous.’
    • ‘But this unlikely scenario is the possible consequence of the Byzantine series of deals being discussed at the Progressive Democrats conference in Galway this weekend.’
    • ‘And because of a Byzantine system for handling receipts, it's difficult to track specific expenses.’
    • ‘The low take-up is hardly surprising: pensioners have to fill in a 35-page form of Byzantine complexity.’
    • ‘This is to phrase the situation in an admittedly Byzantine manner, but it aptly evokes the Italianate cat-and-mouse game that's at play.’
    • ‘Not until the completion of Byzantine negotiations at Bradford was this achieved, however.’
    • ‘The jungle natives would too often leave a most complicated Byzantine twisting trail for the enemy to follow.’
    • ‘This merits an article in itself, and we'll leave aside questions of morally responsibility merely to note that the Byzantine complexities of defending an edit are enough to repel any sensible person from getting involved.’
    • ‘One effect of the welfare reform act was to put the individual states in charge of implementing the often Byzantine complexities of welfare policy.’
    • ‘Spend six months wading through the Byzantine regulations and rules that radio stations must comply with to keep their licences.’
    • ‘User fees are just one more wrinkle in the already Byzantine complexity of healthcare economics.’
    • ‘Both governments try to please labour by ‘job protection’ measures of Byzantine complexity.’
    complicated, detailed, intricate, complex, involved, tortuous, convoluted, serpentine, tangled, knotty, confusing, bewildering, baffling
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Characterized by deviousness or underhanded procedure.
      ‘he has the most Byzantine mind in politics’
      ‘Byzantine intrigues’
      • ‘In the worst possible outcome, the labyrinthine tactics, Byzantine politics and convoluted logic will delay action.’
      • ‘It was in the face of these Byzantine internal politics that the four Scottish courses still in contention awoke yesterday morning to the erroneous news Celtic Manor had already been awarded the Cup.’
      • ‘Riven by internal feuds, the Byzantine ways of association politics have led to a tortuous pattern of new beginnings, only to be followed by stalemate and acrimony.’
      • ‘This might normally have been the end of the matter but Nick, steeped in the Byzantine politics of the British ultra-left, thought there might be more to the excuse than first appeared.’
      • ‘There were two Scots and one Irishman at very senior levels advising the bid team, being no strangers to the Byzantine politics of European football.’


  • A citizen of Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire.

    • ‘The Byzantines derided the coronation of Charlemagne.’
    • ‘It was elaborated upon by the Byzantines, but in essence it was a system that endured for another millennium - far longer than the original Empire.’
    • ‘In the 1420s when the Byzantines had their first experience of bombardment by cannon, they reduced the effectiveness of the new weapon by suspending bales of material, wood and anything that might absorb and diffuse its impact.’
    • ‘The Byzantines got in first and raised their flag, and they refused to let the Crusaders sack the city.’
    • ‘They were almost immediately set upon by the Turks, nor did the Byzantines come to their aid.’
    • ‘In the 6th century, when the Byzantines attempted to reconquer the Western Empire, a brief period of direct Byzantine trade with Britain seems to have occurred.’
    • ‘It marks the arrival of a new inheritor of Rome and a competitor to the Byzantines.’
    • ‘No other civilisation has ever approached the degree of aesthetic and technical mastery which the Byzantines achieved in the production of mosaics, but that was an elite form of religious art because it was so costly.’
    • ‘The Byzantines and Persians were the first to feel the pressure of Arab raids.’
    • ‘For the Byzantines, Greek was the sum and substance of their entire literature, giving them a feeling of cultural superiority.’
    • ‘Relations with the Byzantines were worse than ever.’
    • ‘But the Byzantines mounted a counter-offensive and the Muslims were gradually driven out of the mainland.’
    • ‘Attention is placed on the activities of the emperors as individuals whose actions and decisions could affect every aspect of the lives of ordinary Byzantines.’
    • ‘We have writings that refer to the ‘Christian empire’ for the first time in history, and his advisors had repeatedly argued that Charles could treat with the Byzantines only as equals.’
    • ‘The city was too strong and he feared to attract the attention of the Byzantines.’
    • ‘The Second Crusade succeeded only in souring relations between the Crusader kingdoms, the Byzantines, and friendly Muslim rulers.’
    • ‘Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Vandals, Normans, Arabs, Turks, Spanish and French all laid their mark on the island.’
    • ‘To the Italians, the Greek-speaking Byzantines were Greeks, like the Greek inhabitants of southern Italy.’
    • ‘The Roman system fell into disrepair in Europe after the fall of Rome, but was kept up in the East by the Byzantines and the Arabs.’
    • ‘They had already heard about the ‘treacherous Greeks’ and relations with the Byzantines were sour from the beginning.’


Late 16th century: from Latin Byzantinus, from Byzantium.