The Meaning of Cameo: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of cameo? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word cameo, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word cameo mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word cameo means a short literary sketch or portrait. A literary cameo in literary works is made by the author of a work to put a sort of personal signature on a story. A cameo might also feature a historical person who visits fictional characters in a historical novel, like when Benjamin Franklin shares a beer with Phillipe Charboneau in The Bastard by John Jakes. Vladimir Nabokov made a cameo as minor character Vivian Darkbloom (an anagram of his name) in Lolita, per Fandom. Cam-e-o

The word cameo most often refers to a cameo role, which is when celebrities or a famous person takes minor parts in a film or make a brief appearance in a single scene of a motion picture. People who make plural cameos are often a prominent performer, and take these short appearances like a small dramatic scene or small character part in a television show or television play for the fun of celebrity cameos. Film directors might call up one of their actor friends to make short appearances in their films, or like famous comic book writer Stan Lee, they might cameo in films they have involvement in like the Spider-Man movie. Stan Lee was important in this particular field and his series of cameos in the shared universe setting were a fun easter egg. Alfred Hitchcock always made a cameo in his films. The movie sense is usually what people are referring to when they mention a cameo.

A celebrity’s stature must be high in the work of the performing arts to make a cameo. Otherwise, this will be a perceived mismatch and people will not understand the homage or signature in the original movie. Alternately, the cameo may occur in remakes of earlier films as homage to the earlier work. Cameos do not have to always be made for the acknowledgements of an actor, but could be appearances by musicians, singers as a voice part, athletes, or other renowned people. Sometimes even a crew member of the movie may appear as a cameo. Sometimes this brief appearance of a prominent actor has a special significance, is done for publicity stunts, is done for humor, or to get buzz on Twitter. Sometimes this is done for the introduction of an established character.

The word cameo can also refer to a delicate relief, medallion or piece of jewelry with a profiled head, bust or small scale miniature carving. This can also refer to some carving or sculpture on a stone or shell that is cut in relief or sardonyx in one layer and has another contrasting layer that serves as the background. This raised design can come in a different colour and one might have a portrait cameo brooch engraving with a gem like onyx on it. Do you want a cameo with a gemstone or agate?

There are many different languages that contain words that have the same meaning as the word cameo. You may notice that many of these words look or sound alike while meaning the same thing. These are called cognates. Cognates are often formed when two words or languages have the same root or language of origin, such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word cameo is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Russian: камея‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: kamé‎ (common)
  •  Polish: kamea‎ (fem.)
  •  German: Camée‎ (fem.), Kamee‎ (fem.)
  •  Finnish: kamee‎, kameekoru‎
  •  Spanish: camafeo‎ (masc.),
  •  Italian: cammeo‎ (masc.)
  •  French: camaïeu‎ (masc.)
  •  Estonian: kamee‎
  •  Turkish: işlemeli akik‎
  •  Dutch: camee‎ (fem.)

What is the origin of the word cameo?

According to Etymonline, the word cameo comes from the Middle English cameu, cemieus, and chamehieux. This comes from the Old French camaieu, Italian cammeo and Italian cameo, and Medieval Latin cammaeus, cammeus, and Medieval Latin camahūtus. 

What are synonyms and antonyms of cameo?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word cameo. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English language tool to have in your arsenal. Not only can they help to expand your vocabulary, but they can help you to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word cameo is provided by Power Thesaurus. 

  •  relief
  •  appearance
  •  lines
  •  gem
  •  supporting role
  •  low relief
  •  character part
  •  bit part
  •  leading role
  •  tie pin
  •  brooch
  •  romantic lead
  •  character
  •  high relief
  •  cameo role
  •  precious stones
  •  diamonds
  •  glass
  •  earring
  •  antagonist
  •  episodical
  •  dialogue
  •  principal character
  •  brevity
  •  carving
  •  walk-on
  •  lead
  •  part
  •  anaglyph
  •  bit
  •  minor part
  •  ornament
  •  theatrical role
  •  medallion
  •  rosary
  •  minor role
  •  stock character
  •  nonspeaking part
  •  straight part
  •  vignette
  •  roles
  •  protagonist
  •  pocket size
  •  costume
  •  treasure
  •  silent bit
  •  intaglio
  •  jewel
  •  gold
  •  role
  •  molding

There are also many words that mean the opposite of cameo. These opposite words are called antonyms. Antonyms are another useful English grammatical device to know to help grow your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word cameo is also provided by Power Thesaurus .

  •  prominent role
  •  central theme
  •  leading role
  •  key role
  •  basic function
  •  central role
  •  fundamental role
  •  essential role
  •  major contribution
  •  main role
  •  special person
  •  critical role
  •  important role
  •  primary role
  •  significant role
  •  plainness
  •  long
  •  dominant role
  •  large
  •  major role
  •  hero
  •  super
  •  major part
  •  crucial role
  •  significant contribution
  •  active participation
  •  pivotal role
  •  main theme
  •  gargantuan
  •  vital role
  •  integral part
  •  special
  •  key aspect

Overall, the word cameo means a prominent celebrity or politicians, athletes or other famous people making an appearance in a film or television show, or some famous appearance in a literary composition or novels. It can also refer to a low-relief carving of a person or depiction used for personal adornment. This has both a figurative and literal meaning.


  1. Cameo synonyms – 246 Words and Phrases for Cameo | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Cameo appearance | Ultimate Pop Culture Wiki | Fandom 
  3. cameo | Origin and meaning of cameo | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Cameo antonyms – 33 Opposites of Cameo | Power Thesaurus 
  5. Cameo definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  6. cameo: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense