Definition of tessera in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtesərə/

noun (plural tesserae /ˈtesərē/)

1A small block of stone, tile, glass, or other material used in the construction of a mosaic.
Example sentences
  • Glass was preferred because of its light-catching properties; the effect of glass tesserae in a mosaic is to create brilliance and richness through the changing effect of the refraction of light.
  • The thinly painted, diaphanous rectangles, which achieve greater density of color where they overlap, function as simulacra of brushmarks or as tesserae in a mosaic.
  • Mosaics can be made from any of a number of materials, from the traditional tessera and glass, to mundane materials such as stones and beads, to the unexpected bottle caps, nuts and bolts, and industrial cast-offs.
1.1(In ancient Greece and Rome) a small tablet of wood or bone used as a token.
Example sentences
  • For centuries historians believed the tesserae had been worn by gladiators on a chain or cord around their necks.
  • The tessera was recovered from the Ninfeo of Punta Epitaffio during the underwater excavation in the sea in front of Baia, which nowadays is a little town near Naples.
  • Every corn-receiver was therefore now provided with a tessera, and this tessera, when once granted to him, became his property.



Pronunciation: /ˈtes(ə)rəl/
Example sentences
  • This material is made of VITREOUS clay in tesseral pieces representing the tessera; of the Roman mosaics.
  • It has the same tesseral texture as the ceramic floor-tiles and is readily applied to wainscots and mantel-work.


Mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares 'four'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: tes·ser·a

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