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The Collaborative International Dictionary

curlicue \curl"i*cue\ (k?rl"?-k?), n. [Cf. F. caracole.] Some thing curled or spiral, as a flourish made with a pen on paper, or with skates on the ice; a trick; a frolicsome caper. [Sometimes written curlycue or carlicue.] [ Colloq. U.S.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1843, American English, from curly + cue, perhaps from French queue "tail" or letter Q in its looping script form. Earlier in this sense was curlie-wurlie (1772).


n. A fancy twisting or curling shape made from a series of concentric circles. vb. (context transitive and intransitive English) To make or adorn (something) with curlicues, or as if with curlicues

  1. n. a round shape formed by a series of concentric circles [syn: coil, whorl, roll, curl, ringlet, gyre, scroll]

  2. a short twisting line [syn: squiggle]


A curlicue, or alternatively curlycue, in the visual arts, is a fancy twist, or curl, composed usually from a series of concentric circles. It is a recurring motif in architecture (as decoration to the lintel/ architrave above a door), in calligraphy and in general scrollwork.

Usage examples of "curlicue".

Because they could not put their names or be given credit, the scribes liked to parade themselves in other ways with flourishes, blots, curlicues, misspellings and other marks of distinction.

For a moment Lucinda could make nothing of it, so ornamental were the flourishes of the lettering, so confusing the paraphs and curlicues.

Yagharek looked out over a tumbledown roofscape of twisted roofs and mouldering slate, curlicues of brick and forgotten, warped weathervanes.

The alphabet was swoopy and loaded with curlicues and little stars and dots.

The hilt was covered with the same greenish dragonhide, and the brass hilt was inscribed with curlicues in complement to the bell-guard of the rapier.

Below lay the checkered decks of half-paved back gardens fishponds and weak fountains, curlicued furniture, an overalled woman with ticking scissors.

What made his appearance different this time was the presence of a blue cord wrapped about the tail in swatches and curlicues so intricate it made me dizzy to contemplate it.

This saw has settings for carving out pegs, notches, and assorted bevels and curlicues.

The colours came next, two flags covered in armorial bearings, threaded with gold, tasselled, looped, crowned, curlicued, emblazoned, carried by horsemen whose mounts stepped delicately high as though the earth was scarcely fit to carry such splendid creations.

He made a rapid adjustment in the curlicued instrument that Srin had given him.

He glanced at the recumbent Tekt and then turned desperately, pointing his curlicued blaster at Manship.

The carved and curlicued wood gleamed dully in the golden lanternlight as he reached out and pushed gently at the left-hand door.

It was almost two feet long and thickly curlicued, the creamy white ivory cracked and discoloured.

Gingerly he explored his face and found only minimal damage—his eyebrows were scorched and curlicued, and his mustache gave off an acrid smell.

STEPPING FROM AN ice-cold shower in a shivery glow, Natalie towelled herself fast and hard at the tall antique mirror framed in pink-and-gilt curlicued wood.