Definition of cameo in US English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Equally adept at all subject matter, Lycett decorated vases and plaques with medallions imitating cameos, polychrome figures derived from Pompeian frescoes, and genre scenes.’
    • ‘The depicted cameo bracelet is based (if somewhat loosely) on a piece of jewelry that Pompadour actually owned.’
    • ‘Golden chains crept their way like unkempt vines across dark, mahogany shelves in between elegant cameos and glittering rings.’
    • ‘Castellani also incorporated cameos, scarabs, and enamel into pieces of jewelry as had been done in ancient times.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We depend on them and await them, arriving over the centuries in their cameo brooches and porkpie hats.’
    • ‘Small oval portrait cameos, chosen and hung by Dors, decorate the walls.’
    • ‘One might almost be tempted to look for the cameo profile of a queen.’
    • ‘On her right wrist she conspicuously displays a cameo bracelet bearing the profile of Louis XV.’
    • ‘Upon opening it, she revealed the pendant, picture, and chipped cameo brooch.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The cameo is detachable and can be worn as a pendant.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘More within the reach of the novice collector are the myriad of smaller novelty pieces, from the cameo brooch to the charm bracelet.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Likewise, jeweller Octavia Cook's cameo brooches, though very nice objects, aren't completely comfortable in this context.’
    embossed, relief, relievo, cameo, die-stamped, thermographed, ribbed
    View synonyms
  • 2A short descriptive literary sketch which neatly encapsulates someone or something.

    ‘cameos of street life’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Two marvellously contrasting pictures emerge from these stories, cameos of Ireland old and Ireland new.’
    • ‘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.’
    description, portrait, vignette, profile, portrayal, depiction
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 A small character part in a play or movie, played by a distinguished actor or a celebrity.
      as modifier ‘he played numerous cameo roles’
      • ‘Early roles included a cameo in the film ‘Kudisai’ and the lead in the play ‘Irandavan Pesukiren’.’
      • ‘As I said, the one hundredth reviewer was going to get a treat and that would be a cameo in the story.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Abdul's cameo came in a sketch that recreated a typical Idol audition.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Muppets From Space has the usual assortment of human actors in supporting roles and cameos.’
      • ‘Frequent cameos by top-tier actors pepper the film.’
      • ‘There are also a few high profile cameos, including appearances by Eugene Levy and Julianne Moore.’
      • ‘Ironically, it's Heston, in a small cameo role as an aging ape, who has the film's best moment.’
      • ‘Recently, TV audiences also saw the actor play a cameo role in the award winning series, The League of Gentlemen.’
      • ‘He was in constant demand for short cameos but many offers fell through and some of what he did film was never released.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Welles, as Harry Lime, has only a short amount of screen time - little more than a cameo - but of course he steals it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I should have written him a cameo in the story, just for you.’
      • ‘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.