Definition of curlicue in US English:


(also curlycue)


  • A decorative curl or twist in calligraphy or in the design of an object.

    • ‘Heavens, that seal consists of enough flourishes and curlicues to amaze the eye - yet that design also contains within it tremendous tautness and discipline, as a piece of design.’
    • ‘From one perspective, the looping appendages and curving elements suggest the handles and decorative curlicues of a Rococo urn.’
    • ‘An accompanying tower of sweet potatoes separated with parsnip purée and bedecked with haricots verts is downright dapper, as is a spray of crunchy shaved parsnip curlicues.’
    • ‘Third, the apostrophes are curlicues of the sort produced by word processors on personal computers, not the straight vertical hashmarks typical of typewriters.’
    • ‘There are parchments of painstaking calligraphy, replete with fabulous swirls and curlicues, and magic carpets wider than the Bosphorus.’
    • ‘The voice is always in evidence, of course, but it's in public that it becomes shaped, like a piece of music, and one almost consciously listens for all the gilded glissandoes, the curlicues of wit, the velvet pauses.’
    • ‘I guess I've always thoughtlessly assumed they were decorative, like curlicues and friezes.’
    • ‘They have one trunk only, and short branches, and their leaves adorn these little branches like curlicues.’
    • ‘Red carpets flow up sumptuous staircases and the walls erupt in cornices and curlicues.’
    • ‘There was a vast expanse of marble slabbed flooring, all green and cream swirls, and lots of polished wood with carved curlicues.’
    • ‘Her hair, the color of a late-autumn leaf, curlicues straight down her neck.’
    • ‘The walls were panelled in wood, the floor covered in carpets decorated with curlicues to rival any Persian rug.’
    • ‘The black paintwork was decorated with gold lines and curlicues like an Edwardian dandy's carriage.’
    • ‘The sign screwed to the brickwork was in stiff English capitals and the curlicues beneath were Bengali.’
    • ‘It was a proper printing job, the title words adorned with elegant curlicues.’
    • ‘An elaborate mantelpiece framed the hearth in a dizzying array of swirls and curlicues, and a tall grandfather clock lurked in the corner like a brooding sentry, counting out the seconds with a gloomy tock, tock, tock.’
    • ‘He dips and turns and makes curlicues with his arms.’
    • ‘He eyes critically the curlicues the hairdresser has snipped into his foliage.’
    • ‘Unless you're cuckoo for curlicues, you may wonder the same thing.’
    • ‘If you think baroque is all about curlicues and foofaraws, Rome is the place to learn otherwise.’
    spiral, coil, wreath, twirl, swirl, furl, twist, corkscrew, whorl, helix, gyre
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Mid 19th century: from curly + cue (in the sense ‘pigtail’), or -cue representing the letter q.