A diptych (from the Greek di "two" and ptychē "fold") is a pair of paitings. You can also say triptych for a group of three paintings belonging together, septych for a group of seven and so on. Polyptych is an umbrella term for these words.

Is there a word for a single painting that has similar etymology?

If not, is there a word for a single work of art that can be used when one wants to emphasize that it's a single independent work of art, as opposed to a part of a group (for example a diptych)?

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    I would call it a tablet (or perhaps a plaque if it was fixed to a wall). Given that a single panel is not folded then it makes little sense to add the suffix 'ptych' Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 18:52
  • I think you have invalidated my answer with your edit. That is not A Good Thing To Do.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 22:45
  • wouldn't a group of seven more properly be a heptatych or something along those lines?
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 23:48
  • @AndrewLeach The original question is still there, I just added a follow up question, and you kind of already answered that as well as possible with "panel", so your answer is very valid. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:37
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    @sumelic I think it comes down to ignorance of the Greek hepta- form. The middle p is part of ptych, so even the Latinate hybrid should be septaptych. The word heptaptych does appear in the Wikipedia article on polyptych.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


The etymology of diptych and its extensions triptych and polyptych includes the concept of the folding of the images.

Mid 19th century: from late Latin polyptycha (neuter plural) 'registers', from Greek poluptukhos 'having many folds', from polu- 'many' + ptukhē 'fold'.


As Chasly has commented, the concept of folding a single panel is rather self-defeating, so monoptych, which would be etymologically correct, is not found.

Generally, as the linked paintings are painted on board, the term panel is used.

  • You're right about monotych being self-defeating. Panel could be used, but it would be interesting to find a word that emphasizes that it's a single stand-alone painting as contrary to a diptych. I'll update the question asking for this. Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 19:44

I agree that the "ptych" concept doesn't really apply to a single piece, but if I wanted to name it that way to clarify it differing from other, multi-part, pieces of art, I would be inclined to call it a holoptych, indicating that it's both singular and that the one item is the whole of the art piece.


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