From the French trompe-l’œil (“trompe l’oeil”, literally “deceives the eye”), from trompe (“deceives”, the third-person singular indicative simple present form of tromper, “to deceive”) + l’ (“t’”, the prevocalic form of le, “the”) + œil (“eye”).
trompe l'oeil (usually uncountable, plural trompe l'oeil or trompe l'oeils) (see usage notes)
- (uncountable) A genre of still life painting that exploits human vision to create the illusion that the subject of the painting is real.
- (countable) A painting of this kind.
- This phrase is sometimes misconstructed as trompe d’œil and trompe-d’œil, which, literally interpreted in French, means “deceives of eye”.
- In French, trompe-l’œil is an invariant noun; the same usage is reflected in the plural use of the English trompe l’oeil. Alternatively, trompe l’oeil is treated as a headless noun phrase, to which is suffixed -s to form a regular plural form. Still otherwise, some authors form novel plurals on modified etymological bases, such as the technically correct trompent-l’œil (“[they] deceive the eye”) and the ultimately mistaken trompe les yeux (“deceives the eyes”); however, such neologistic constructions are vanishingly rare.
- “Oxford English Dictionary [2nd Ed.; 1989] ” listed in the
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