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Carved spout that drains water from a rooftop gutter. The Gothic gargoyle was usually a grotesque bird or animal sitting on the back of a cornice and projecting forward for several feet in order to throw the water far from the building. The term is often loosely applied to any grotesque or fantastic beast, such as the chimères (chimeras) that decorate the parapets of Notre-Dame de Paris.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on gargoyle, visit Britannica.com.