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A woman wearing a gown with a diaphanous overskirt


From Medieval Latin diaphanus, from Ancient Greek διαφανής (diaphanḗs), from δια- (dia-, through) + φαίνω (phaínō, to shine, appear).


  • IPA(key): /daɪˈæf.ən.əs/
  • (file)


diaphanous (comparative more diaphanous, superlative most diaphanous)

  1. Transparent or translucent; allowing light to pass through; capable of being seen through.
    • 1899 February, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume CLXV, number M, New York, N.Y.: The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, part I:
      The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 23:
      Adam requires a touch of feminine lace and a whisper of diaphanous silk, not a direct vision of the gaping maw of the human vulva.
    • 1999, Nicholas Humphrey, A History of the Mind: Evolution and the Birth of Consciousness[1], page 96:
      But nonetheless the purpleness of the imagined purple cow will almost certainly be meaner, more diaphanous, more fleeting than any real-life purple that you ever saw: to imagine a purple cow is just not the same thing as to have a purple sensation (or at least a purple sensation worth the name).
    • 2004, Gustave Flaubert, translated by Margaret Maulden, Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners, page 98:
      The evening mist, drifting among the leafless poplars, veiled their silhouettes with a violet film, paler and more translucent than the most diaphanous gauze that might have caught in their branches.
  2. Of a fine, almost transparent, texture; gossamer; light and insubstantial.
    • 1951, Robert Frost, Unpublished preface to a collection, 2007, Mark Richardson (editor), The Collected Prose of Robert Frost, page 169,
      The most diaphanous wings carry a burden of pollen from flower to flower.
    • 1963, Hermann Weyl, quoted in 1985, Floyd Merrell, Deconstruction Reframed, page 67,
      What is amazing is that "a concept that is created by mind itself, the sequence of integers, the simplest and most diaphanous thing for the constructive mind, assumes a similar aspect of obscurity and deficiency when viewed from the axiomatic angle" (Weyl, 1963, 220).
  3. (physics) Isorefractive, having an identical refractive index.



Related terms[edit]