from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A gem or shell carved in relief, especially one in which the raised design and the background consist of layers of contrasting colors.
  • n. The technique of carving in this way.
  • n. A medallion with a profile cut in raised relief.
  • n. A brief vivid portrayal or depiction: a literary cameo.
  • n. A brief appearance of a prominent actor, as in a single scene of a motion picture. Also called cameo role.
  • transitive v. To make into or like a gem or shell carved in relief.
  • transitive v. To portray in sharp, delicate relief, as in a literary composition.
  • intransitive v. To make a brief appearance, as in a film: She cameoed as Anne Boleyn in A Man for All Seasons.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A piece of jewelry, etc., carved in relief.
  • n. A single very brief appearance by a prominent celebrity in a movie or song.
  • v. To appear in a cameo role.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A carving in relief, esp. one on a small scale used as a jewel for personal adornment, or like.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An engraving in relief upon a gem, a hard stone of moderate size, or a similar material, or the object itself so engraved, as distinguished from an intaglio; specifically, such an engraving upon a stone or a shell having two or three layers differing in color, such as an onyx, agate, etc., and so treated as to utilize the effect of the variety of coloring.
  • n. Hence Raised or anaglyphic work in art on a miniature scale; specifically, the art of engraving small figures in relief: opposed to intaglio: as, a stone or shell cut in cameo; a vase ornamented in cameo.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. engraving or carving in low relief on a stone (as in a brooch or ring)


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Italian cameo and Middle English cameu (from Old French camaieu and Medieval Latin camahūtus).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Italian cammeo. The movie sense is short for “cameo role” referring to a famous person who was playing no character, but him or herself. Like a cameo brooch — a low-relief carving of a person’s head or bust — the actor or celebrity is instantly recognizable. More recently, it has come to refer to any short appearances, whether as a character or as oneself.



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