gar·​goyle ˈgär-ˌgȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce gargoyle (audio)
: a spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building
: a grotesquely carved figure
: a person with an ugly face
gargoyled adjective

Illustration of gargoyle

Illustration of gargoyle
  • gargoyle 1a

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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Kimbrough also voiced the puritanical gargoyle Victor in both of Disney's animated The Hunchback of Notre Dame films and its several video game iterations. Alexis Jones, Peoplemag, 5 Feb. 2023 The sky was a brilliant blue, and the sun cast a rose-hued glow on the gargoyle faces ornamenting the Pont Neuf, not far from where Mr. Callais has sold dusty classics to countless visitors for more than 30 years. Liz Alderman, New York Times, 7 Nov. 2020 The Holystone bottles feature a winged logo, which, according to the Stone Brewery trademark claim, closely resembles the gargoyle on its beer labels and advertising. Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 21 Aug. 2020 The antenna dishes on top of the Event Horizon are all based on the gargoyle clusters on the top of Notre-Dame. Vulture, 18 Aug. 2022 Not only that, but all of the gargoyle faces were designed to feature different emotions depending on the angle or what’s happening in the scene. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, 23 Nov. 2022 Another placed four Vietnamese children with a gargoyle-grinning William L. Calley Jr., the Army lieutenant who ordered the 1968 My Lai massacre. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2022 One stands 4 feet tall and is dominated by a gargoyle-like face of a god with an open mouth, where offerings could be left. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 11 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gargoyle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English gargule, gargoyl, from Old French gargoule

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near gargoyle

Cite this Entry

“Gargoyle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


gar·​goyle ˈgär-ˌgȯil How to pronounce gargoyle (audio)
: a waterspout in the form of a strange or frightening human or animal figure sticking out at the roof or eaves of a building

More from Merriam-Webster on gargoyle

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