This sculpture has a plate accompanying it giving a description of the subject. The title is "Statue of Pan", and then it goes on to describe a woodland deity.

What would you call this plate? Would you call it a plaque? That's my first guess, but I think it might be wrong, as the writing is not engraved but rather printed, it would seem.

So I would be curious to know first of all whether plaque is an appropriate word to describe this plate and second of all what would be the best word for it?

To state some basic research, I looked up plaque on Merriam Webster's online dictionary and found this definition for English Language learners, which might supply a case for using it here.

a flat, thin piece of metal or wood with writing on it that is used especially as a reminder of something (such as a historic event or an achievement)

Another definition, higher up on the page, i.e. 1c, gives a description of plaque that implies an inscription is necessary.

a commemorative or identifying inscribed tablet

But it just occurred to me that print is a form of inscription, even though it is not a form of engraving. So perhaps this too supports the usage.

Without further ado, here is the sculpture.

Statue in museum with explanatory text

  • 2
    Personally, I think a plaque is usually commemorative. It is the feature, not an accessory to the feature. This is just a piece of accompanying signage.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 2:09
  • 3
    "Plaque", when not on your teeth, is commonly used (in the US) to refer to any sort of sign identifying, describing, or otherwise complementing a piece of art. There are a number of alternatives: Sign, plate, nameplate, tablet, badge, medallion. The choice depends in large part on the specific object and setting.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 2:35
  • @HotLicks Interesting! Thanks for the affirmation. So would you personally use it here? (I think it's also supportive that the French verb plaquer means "to plate".)
    – ktm5124
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 2:37
  • 8
    it can also be a placard
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 3:05
  • 1
    The wikipedia page is titled Museum Label but whether you want to trust wikipedia... Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


Using the words "plaque" or "inscription" suggests either is an integral part of the statue. This is just a description on a museum card.

  • Thanks for the answer! I'm holding off on accepting an answer until I find one that's more comprehensive. I am persuaded by Hot Licks' point (perhaps simply because it matches my own intuition) that plaque is used differently in America.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 16:56
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    If that's a plaque, it's the first on the planet to be made from Bristol board.
    – KarlG
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 17:16
  • Wikipedia calls it a label. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_label If such a label were, say, made permanent by casting it in bronze and attaching it to the wall, especially if it commemorated the gift, dedication, etc. of the work of art, that might be considered a plaque.
    – KarlG
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 13:58

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