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Alternative forms[edit]


Mid-17th century, borrowed from Italian chiaroscuro, from chiaro (clear, bright) + oscuro (dark, obscure).


chiaroscuro with its exaggerated light contrasts


chiaroscuro (countable and uncountable, plural chiaroscuros or chiaroscuri)

  1. (painting) An artistic technique developed during the Renaissance, referring to the use of strong contrasts between light and dark in order to create the illusion of volume.
  2. (painting) A monochrome picture made by using several different shades of the same color.
  3. (art) A woodcut technique in which several woodcut blocks are used to print different shades of a color, or a woodcut print made by this technique.
  4. (photography) A photographic technique in which one side of the subject, for example a face, is well lit and the other is in shadow.
    Synonym: Rembrandt lighting

Coordinate terms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



chiaroscuro (comparative more chiaroscuro, superlative most chiaroscuro)

  1. (figuratively) Possessing the qualities of a work of chiaroscuro.
    • 1913, The Saturday Evening Post - Volume 185, Issue 7, page 21:
      It has been a very chiaroscuro day—lots of sunlight and shadow.
    • 1962, Charles Neider, The frozen sea: a study of Franz Kafka, page 90:
      It is cruder than the others, more graphic, less chiaroscuro.
    • 1970, Archeologia classica - Volumes 22-23, page 56:
      A somewhat " chiaroscuro " effect, which imparts a strong feeling of rotundity to the bronze helmet, is achieved by the artist's bold use of broad hatching along its upper contours.
    • 1983 -, Max Davidson, The Wolf, page 68:
      'Rome's a very chiaroscuro city, I've always thought,' said Tom Richardson eventually, sensing that the lull in the conversation was going to be a protracted one.
    • 1984, Francesca Stanfill, Shadows and light:
      I heard them discussing painting, and the two pictures Veronique had purchased from Allegra's sale: a haunting nude, very chiaroscuro, and another — more colorful and enigmatic — of a woman before a screen, holding an Oriental mask.
    • 1993, American Cinematographer - Volume 74, page 55:
      To minimize the problem, we used dark skies, very chiaroscuro lighting, and decided that the whole film would take place at night."
    • 1994, The Absolute Sound - Volume 19, Issues 95-98, page 111:
      HP, however, preferred the more chiaroscuro quality of the original CD.
    • 1995, Frank Waters, The Lizard Woman, page 3:
      A very chiaroscuro sort of man he was, arm on balcony, staring down into the dusty street below.
    • 2007, Gerd Gemünden, Mary R. Desjardins, Dietrich Icon, page 265:
      At times the image is so chiaroscuro as to be nearly illegible, such that one can only imagine the discussions between Lang and the Technicolor advisors.
    • 2017, P.L. Hawks, I Love Paris:
      The shooting bright light from the outside contrasted sharply from the coal black shadows of the interior giving the compound a very chiaroscuro quality.



  • IPA(key): /ˌkja.roˈ[1]
  • Rhymes: -uro
  • Hyphenation: chia‧ro‧scù‧ro

Etymology 1[edit]

From chiaro (clear, bright) +‎ oscuro (dark, obscure).

Italian Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia it


chiaroscuro m (plural chiaroscuri)

  1. (painting, art) chiaroscuro (artistic technique using exaggerated light contrasts)
  2. (figurative) contrasts, ups and downs
Coordinate terms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See the etymology of the corresponding lemma form.



  1. first-person singular present indicative of chiaroscurare


  1. ^ chiaroscuro in Dizionario Italiano Olivetti, Olivetti Media Communication

Further reading[edit]

  • chiaroscuro in Collins Italian-English Dictionary
  • chiaroscuro in Aldo Gabrielli, Grandi Dizionario Italiano (Hoepli)
  • chiaroscuro in – Garzanti Linguistica, De Agostini Scuola Spa
  • chiaroscùro in Dizionario Italiano Olivetti, Olivetti Media Communication
  • chiaroscuro in – De Agostini Editore
  • chiaroscuro in – Vocabolario Treccani on line, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana


Portuguese Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia pt
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Unadapted borrowing from Italian chiaroscuro.


chiaroscuro m (plural chiaroscuros)

  1. Synonym of claro-escuro