Definitions

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

  • adj. Of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent: diaphanous tulle.
  • adj. Characterized by delicacy of form. See Synonyms at airy.
  • adj. Vague or insubstantial: diaphanous dreams of glory.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Transparent; allowing light to pass through; capable of being seen through.
  • adj. Of a fine, almost transparent texture, e.g. gossamer.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Allowing light to pass through, as porcelain; translucent or transparent; pellucid; clear.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Transmitting light; permitting the passage of light; transparent; clear; translucent.

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

  • adj. so thin as to transmit light

Etymologies

From Medieval Latin diaphanus, transparent, from Greek diaphanēs, from diaphainein, to be transparent : dia-, dia- + phainein, phan-, to show; see bhā-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin diaphanus (from Ancient Greek διαφανής) +‎ -ous. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • He introduces two female dancers, Silvina Cortés and Olga Cobos, who dip and skim in diaphanous shifts, and although crafted with typical Maliphant precision, this new material is inconsequential and ultimately soporific.

    Russell Maliphant company

  • I think she deserves credit for using the word diaphanous & spelling it correctly.

    Regretsy – Blue Cheese

  • I have no clue how many people are here, but it is a picture-perfect summer evening, breezy and bathed in diaphanous (I've always loved that word) light.

    Swampland Commenter Pool - Swampland - TIME.com

  • A Pierrette -- in short, diaphanous muslin, her face whitened to match it; a Pierrette who stood slowly spinning on her toes, with arms raised and hands joined in an arch above her glistening hair.

    Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works

  • Designer Ashleigh Verrier said her favorite fashion word was "diaphanous" -- an adjective characterizing fineness of texture.

    Breaking News - The Post Chronicle

  • "I never picked up on them until I started to see sheer versions," she said, referring to diaphanous varieties that appeared on spring runways at Jil Sander, Chloe, Marc Jacobs and Lanvin, among others.

    The Seattle Times

  • The researchers identified a mutation in the DIAPH3 gene that causes over-production of a compound known as a diaphanous protein.

    Newswise: Latest News

  • He had removed his robe, to reveal his bright white-furred form clad in shorts and some kind of diaphanous shirt.

    The Lives of Felix Gunderson

  • But a little while after, when some honey was placed in the cell, they probably found that the metal effected some change in it, for upon taking counsel together they covered the surface of the tin with a kind of diaphanous varnish.

    A Book of Natural History Young Folks' Library Volume XIV.

  • He appears to have confounded Sebamook with Sebago, which is nearer, but has no "diaphanous" rock on its shore.

    The Maine Woods

Comments

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  • "I remember once handling an automatic belonging to a fellow student, in the days . . . when I toyed with the idea of enjoying his little sister, a most diaphanous nymphet with a black hair bow, and then shooting myself."
    Nabokov, Lolita, page 29

    March 1, 2011

  • "The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds."

    Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

    January 6, 2011

  • "Either swift-moving and bent over the mythological wheel of her bicycle, strapped on rainy days inside the warrior tunic of her waterproof which moulded her breasts, her head turbaned and dressed with snakes, when she spread terror through the streets of Balbec; or else on the evenings when we had taken champagne into the woods of Chantepie, her voice provocative and altered, her face suffused with warm pallor, reddened only on the cheekbones, and when, unable to make it out in the darkness of the carriage, I drew her into the moonlight in order to see it more clearly, the face I was now trying in vain to recapture, to see again in a darkness that would never end. A little statuette on the drive to the island in the Bois, a still and plump face with coarse-grained skin at the pianola, she was thus by turns rain-soaked and swift, provoking and diaphanous, motionless and smiling, an angel of music."
    -- The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, p 659 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    February 15, 2010

  • "Between the two Balbec settings, so different one from the other, there was an interval of several years in Paris, the long expanse of which was dotted with all the visits that Albertine had paid me. I saw her in the different years of my life occupying, in relation to myself, different positions which made me feel the beauty of the intervening spaces, that long lapse of time during which I had remained without seeing her and in the diaphanous depths of which the roseate figure that I saw before me was carved with mysterious shadows and in bold relief. This was due also to the superimposition not merely of the successive images which Albertine had been for me, but also of the great qualities of intelligence and heart, and of the defects of character, all alike unsuspected by me, which Albertine, in a germination, a multiplication of herself, a fleshy efflorescence in sombre colours, had added to a nature that formerly could scarcely have been said to exist, but was now difficult to plumb."
    --The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, p 83 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    December 29, 2009

  • That's precisely how I feel about bodhi, no offence.

    October 2, 2008

  • Don't like this word, it's pretentious and flowery without having any real beauty to it.

    October 2, 2008

  • Reminds me of the incredibly thin stalactite curtains in some caves. It was beautiful.

    October 2, 2008

  • It makes me think of the Roman Goddess Diana in a flowing, gossamer-like gown.

    December 3, 2007

  • diaphragm is actually the closest phonetically and spelling-wise.

    September 2, 2007

  • September 2, 2007

  • Oh, yuck.

    August 21, 2007

  • I know, but it still has those first 4 characters that irresistably remind me of diapers, maybe because those are the only two words I know of that have that sequence, at least in English.

    Can you imagine diaphanous diapers, how gross would that be?!?!

    August 21, 2007

  • This word seems to be rather the opposite of diapers...

    August 13, 2007

  • I don't care for this word - it reminds me of diapers.

    August 12, 2007

  • "to show through" "to shine through" literally

    July 14, 2007