noun, plural cam·e·os.

  1. a technique of engraving upon a gem or other stone, as onyx, in such a way that an underlying stone of one color is exposed as a background for a low-relief design of another color.
  2. a gem or other stone so engraved.
  3. a literary sketch, small dramatic scene, or the like, that effectively presents or depicts its subject.
  4. Also called cameo role. a minor part played by a prominent performer in a single scene of a motion picture or a television play.

noun plural cameos

    1. a medallion, as on a brooch or ring, with a profile head carved in relief
    2. (as modifier)a cameo necklace
  1. an engraving upon a gem or other stone of at least two differently coloured layers, such as sardonyx, so carved that the background is of a different colour from the raised design
  2. a stone with such an engraving
    1. a single and often brief dramatic scene played by a well-known actor or actress in a film or television play
    2. (as modifier)a cameo role
    1. a short literary work or dramatic sketch
    2. (as modifier)a cameo sketch

early 15c., kaadmaheu, camew, chamehieux and many other spellings (from early 13c. in Anglo-Latin), “carved precious stone with two layers of colors,” from Old French camaieu and directly from Medieval Latin cammaeus, of unknown origin, perhaps ultimately from Arabic qamaa’il “flower buds,” or Persian chumahan “agate.” Transferred sense of “small character or part that stands out from other minor parts” in a play, etc., is from 1928, from earlier meaning “short literary sketch or portrait” (1851), a transferred sense from cameo silhouettes.

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