Origin of the term
The word rococo was first used as a humorous variation of the word rocaille. Rocaille was originally a method of decoration, using pebbles, seashells and cement, which was often used to decorate grottoes and fountains since the Renaissance. In the late 17th and early 18th century rocaille became the term for a kind of decorative motif or ornament that appeared in the late Style Louis XIV, in the form of a seashell interlaced with acanthus leaves. In 1736 the designer and jeweler Jean Mondon published the Premier Livre de forme rocquaille et cartel, a collection of designs for ornaments of furniture and interior decoration. It was the first appearance in print of the term "rocaille" to designate the style. The carved or molded seashell motif was combined with palm leaves or twisting vines to decorate doorways, furniture, wall panels and other architectural elements.
The term rococo was first used in print in 1825 to describe decoration which was "out of style and old-fashioned." It was used in 1828 for decoration "which belonged to the style of the 18th century, overloaded with twisting ornaments." In 1829 the author Stendhal described rococo as "the rocaille style of the 18th century."
In the 19th century, the term was used to describe architecture or music which was excessively ornamental. Since the mid-19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. While there is still some debate about the historical significance of the style, Rococo is now often considered as a distinct period in the development of European art.