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 word gargoule. The stone beasts likely earned that name because of the water that gargled out of their throats and mouths; the word gargoule is imitative in origin.

Examples of gargoyle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Rooms are filled with modern and antique furniture, while the bones of the building—stone walls, eaves, gargoyles—sing out. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 13 Dec. 2023 French doors on either side of the fireplace lead to a tree-shaded brick terrace, where the aforementioned gargoyle fountain is located. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 25 Apr. 2024 The images are alternately beautiful, artful, mysterious, and mundane: twentysomethings posing with clarinets or gargoyles, a woman sunbathing with the Twin Towers behind her, frolickers enjoying a naked summer at a lake. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2024 Villeneuve is adept at staging grand-scale battles, but the movie’s best set piece is the climactic tooth-and-nail face-off between Paul and this grinning gargoyle. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Feb. 2024 Over-the-top elements of this architectural style include balconies carved with peering gargoyles and gremlins on gilded buildings. Kristin Braswell, Travel + Leisure, 3 Feb. 2024 The show followed nocturnal gargoyles that protect New York City from supernatural threats. Wesley Stenzel,, 17 Oct. 2023 In one photograph from that period, hundreds of vultures crowd a New Delhi dump and perch like gargoyles on the buildings that surround it. Meera Subramanian, The New Yorker, 31 Jan. 2024 More amusingly, among the gargoyles and grotesques that dot the various towers are one in the form of a corrupt politician and another representing Darth Vader. Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, 7 Dec. 2023

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 20 Jun. 2024.

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

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