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

  • n. One who cuts, polishes, or engraves gems.
  • n. A dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.
  • adj. Of or relating to precious stones or the art of working with them.
  • adj. Engraved in stone.
  • adj. Marked by conciseness, precision, or refinement of expression: lapidary prose.
  • adj. Sharply or finely delineated: a face with lapidary features.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A person who cuts, polishes, engraves, or deals in gems.
  • n.  a treatise on precious stones
  • adj. Pertaining to gems and precious stones, or the art of working them.
  • adj. Suitable for inscriptions; efficient, stately, concise.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An artificer who cuts, polishes, and engraves precious stones; hence, a dealer in precious stones.
  • n. A virtuoso skilled in gems or precious stones; a connoisseur of lapidary work.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to the art of cutting stones, or engraving on stones, either gems or monuments.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to monumental inscriptions.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Pertaining to a stone or stones; having relation to stones: as, the lapidary bee (which see, below).
  • Pertaining or relating to, or used in, the working of stone or stones, especially of fine stones or gems, as cutting, polishing, engraving, etc.: as, the lapidary art; a lapidary wheel.
  • Engraved or inscribed upon stone: as, lapidary verses.
  • Of or pertaining to inscriptions cut in stone, or to any formal inscriptions; monumental: as, the lapidary style of composition or of lettering.
  • A lapidary wheel.
  • the slicer, a thin iron wheel edged with diamond-dust, used like a saw;
  • the lap or mill, used for grinding and polishing, usually working horizontally and performing its function by means of its upper face or disk, which is faced with metal, wood, leather, or other material, and is strewn with polishing or abrading powder of different degrees of hardness and fineness.
  • n. A stone-cutter; one who cuts and prepares and inscribes tombstones.
  • n. Specifically, a workman in fine and hard stones; one who does any kind of skilled work on precious or semi-precious stones, as cutting, polishing, engraving, the formation of useful or decorative articles, etc.
  • n. A virtuoso of lapidary work; a lapidarist.

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

  • adj. of or relating to precious stones or the art of working with them
  • n. a skilled worker who cuts and engraves precious stones
  • n. an expert on precious stones and the art of cutting and engraving them


Middle English lapidarie, from Old French lapidaire, from Latin lapidārius, from lapis, lapid-, stone.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin lapidārius ("of stones") (later used as a noun ‘stone-cutter’), from lapis ("stone"). (Wiktionary)


  • In consequence, there developed two varieties of wedge-writing: the one that may be termed lapidary, used for the stone inscriptions, the official historical records, and such legal documents as were prepared with especial care; the other cursive, occurring only on legal and commercial clay tablets, and becoming more frequent as we approach the latest period of Babylonian writing, which extends to within a few decades of our era.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2: Assizes-Browne

  • The merit of his _Maximes_ as examples of style -- a style which may be described as lapidary -- is incomparable; it is impossible to say more, or to say it more adequately, in little; but one wearies in the end of the monotony of an idea unalterably applied, of unqualified brilliance, of unrelieved concision; we anticipate our surprise, and its purpose is defeated.

    A History of French Literature Short Histories of the Literatures of the World: II.

  • Blank verse makes some approach to that which is called the lapidary style; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and, therefore, tires by long continuance.

    Lives of the Poets, Volume 1

  • Neither of the big words in Buckley's headline fits the situation elegantly or enlarges the reader's understanding of his message; in fact "lapidary" is something of a cliche in high-tone book blurbing and "not eristic" makes a blatantly disingenuous claim.

    "I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words."

  • A sentence containing the word "lapidary" cannot itself be lapidary.

    "I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words."

  • This kind of lapidary showing-off lends itself to ridicule. news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday Telegraph

  • What Dick as narrator calls Gloria's "lapidary" paranoia foreshadows the Black Iron Prison.

    The Brussels Journal - The Voice of Conservatism in Europe

  • It was in reading Updike that I first saw how writing could be described as "lapidary": he is second to none as a prose stylist, although in an interview with the Times last fall he said that he didn't think of himself as a stylish writer, just one who wanted to get everything right, so that the reader would see the people and the world he was writing about exactly as he saw it.

    Green Mountain Daily - Front Page

  • Disarmingly simple and clear, Muske-Dukes's lapidary, ardent poem recalls us to our losses, our selves, a responsibility that extends "to a soldier" -- to a man, to a woman.

    Carol Muske-Dukes: "To a Soldier" Poem

  • (After all, Eisenhower's characterization of "the military-industrial complex" probably wouldn't have resonated so deep if he had been prone to tossing off a lapidary phrase like that once a day.)

    Archive 2009-01-01


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  • Dr. Samuel Johnson, according to James Boswell, his biographer, said "In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath."

    June 10, 2009

  • I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words

    February 16, 2009

  • ...I did not neglect to know the truth respecting the value of my ring, and showed it to a lapidary, who rated it at three ducats.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 1 ch. 17

    September 12, 2008

  • another definition: characteristic of or suitable for monumental inscriptions (lapidary phrasing)

    August 25, 2008

  • "To add his own contribution to the pleasures of the repast, M. de Norpois entertained us with a number of the stories with which he was in the habit of regaling his diplomatic colleagues, quoting now some ludicrous period uttered by a politician notorious for long sentences packed with incoherent images, now some lapidary epigram of a diplomat sparkling with Attic salt."
    -- Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, Revised by D.J. Enright, p 40 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    March 5, 2008

  • NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. lap·i·dar·ies
    1. One who cuts, polishes, or engraves gems. 2. A dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.
    ADJECTIVE: 1. Of or relating to precious stones or the art of working with them. 2a. Engraved in stone. b. Marked by conciseness, precision, or refinement of expression: lapidary prose. c. Sharply or finely delineated: a face with lapidary features.
    ETYMOLOGY: Middle English lapidarie, from Old French lapidaire, from Latin lapidrius, from lapis, lapid-, stone.

    May 19, 2007