Definition of tapetum in English:



  • A reflective layer of the choroid in the eyes of many animals, causing them to shine in the dark.

    • ‘Passing over the ship's holds I look down upon sedate shoals of crescent-tailed bigeyes, their reflective tapetums looking like silver cataracts.’
    • ‘This ‘eyeshine’ is not the iris color but that of the vascular membrane - the tapetum - showing through the translucent pigment layer on the surface of the retina.’
    • ‘A layer of tapetum at the back of their eyes greatly increases their ability to see at night as well; this also makes their eyes glow in the dark.’
    • ‘These animals typically contain abundant populations of rods in their retinas, which are often found in conjunction with a retinal tapetum.’
    • ‘Only animals active at night have these tapetums, which underlie their light-retrieving retinas.’


Early 18th century from late Latin, from Latin tapete ‘carpet’.