decorative pattern of stylized foliage, characteristic of Muslim art

Arabesque is an artistic decoration. It uses "surface decorations based on... interlacing foliage, tendrils" or plain lines.[1] Another definition is "Foliate ornament, used in the Islamic world, typically using leaves... combined with spiralling stems".[2]

Stone relief with arabesques in the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus
Border decoration to an Ottoman miniature, early 16th century

Arabesques are usually of a single design which can be 'tiled' or repeated as many times as desired.[3]

The term "arabesque" is used as a technical term by art historians for decoration in Islamic art from about the 9th century onwards, and European decorative art from the Renaissance onwards. Note that Islamic geometric patterns are a different style from arabesques.


  1. Fleming, John & Honour, Hugh 1977 (1989). Dictionary of the decorative arts. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-82047-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Rawson, Jessica 1984. Chinese ornament: the lotus and the dragon. British Museum Publications, p236. ISBN 0-7141-1431-6
  3. Robinson, Francis 1996 (2002). The Cambridge illustrated history of the Islamic world. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66993-1.
Decorative panel from Abbasid Samarra, 9th century