gar·​goyle | \ ˈgär-ˌgȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce gargoyle (audio) \

Definition of gargoyle

1a : a spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building
b : a grotesquely carved figure
2 : a person with an ugly face

Illustration of gargoyle

Illustration of gargoyle

gargoyle 1a

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Other Words from gargoyle

gargoyled \ ˈgär-​ˌgȯi(-​ə)ld How to pronounce gargoyled (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

In the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux reportedly complained about the new sculptures in the cloisters where he lived. "Surely," he is quoted as saying, "if we do not blush for such absurdities we should at least regret what we have spent on them." St. Bernard was apparently provoked by the grotesque figures designed to drain rainwater from buildings. By the 13th century, those figures were being called "gargoyles," a name that came to Middle English from the Old French gargoule. The stone beasts may have earned that name because of the water that gargled out of their throats and mouths.

Examples of gargoyle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Stone gargoyle or bas-relief depictions are preserved on about twenty churches today, including Cologne Cathedral and the Wittenberg Stadtkirche, where Martin Luther, himself an infamous anti-Semite, is said to have posted his ninety-five theses. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, "Letters," 18 Aug. 2020 The club was best known for a 7-foot, 1,200-pound, anatomically correct clay gargoyle—named Harold—that was once perched in the parking lot. Garrett M. Graff, Wired, "The Furious Hunt for the MAGA Bomber," 12 Aug. 2020 Every 5-10 minutes, the alarmingly realistic animatronic gargoyle snaps to life. Joshua Pease, Popular Mechanics, "Is the Denver Airport Really Controlled by the Illuminati?," 1 June 2020 Harvey was pressed right up against the fence now, the slats coming to his chin, only his head poking over, like a gargoyle. Emma Cline, The New Yorker, "White Noise," 1 June 2020 The gargoyle climbs the wobbling spire and the seat of government’s pants are on fire. James Parker, The Atlantic, "The Advice That Most 2020 Commencement Speakers Won’t Give," 24 May 2020 Tourists over the festive period can now see the famed gargoyles and stone statues at night in their full illuminated splendor from the adjacent bridges, although the forecourt is still closed. Washington Post, "Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries," 20 Dec. 2019 Details – rose windows, gargoyles, flying buttresses – came gradually. Mike Hughes,, "Here's what you need to watch on TV this week: April 26-May 2," 26 Apr. 2020 In French, the word for gargoyle—gargouille—has origins in the words for throat and gurgle. Casey Cep, The New Yorker, "The Endurance of Notre-Dame," 12 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gargoyle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gargoyle

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for gargoyle

Middle English gargule, gargoyl, from Old French gargoule

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The first known use of gargoyle was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Gargoyle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for gargoyle


How to pronounce gargoyle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gargoyle

: a strange or ugly human or animal figure that sticks out from the roof of a building (such as a church)


gar·​goyle | \ ˈgär-ˌgȯil How to pronounce gargoyle (audio) \

Kids Definition of gargoyle

: a strange or frightening human or animal figure that sticks out from the roof of a building and often serves as a waterspout

More from Merriam-Webster on gargoyle

Nglish: Translation of gargoyle for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about gargoyle

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