Definition of tapetum in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /təˈpēdəm/


A reflective layer of the choroid in the eyes of many animals, causing them to shine in the dark.
Example sentences
  • Passing over the ship's holds I look down upon sedate shoals of crescent-tailed bigeyes, their reflective tapetums looking like silver cataracts.
  • This ‘eyeshine’ is not the iris color but that of the vascular membrane - the tapetum - showing through the translucent pigment layer on the surface of the retina.
  • A layer of tapetum at the back of their eyes greatly increases their ability to see at night as well; this also makes their eyes glow in the dark.


Early 18th century: from late Latin, from Latin tapete 'carpet'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ta·pe·tum

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.