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

Still alive in modern times, Frankenstein’s creature becomes caught in the middle, as gargoyles and demons wage war for the souls of mankind. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, its architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses. oregonlive, "Structure of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris saved: fire chief," 15 Apr. 2019 Century-old pictures show the cathedral’s stone gargoyles that watch over the city, and stereocards capture its huge towers. Steve Appleford, Los Angeles Times, "Notre Dame at the Getty: 38 works evoking beauty and loss from a ‘symphony of stone’," 31 July 2019 Some stretch downward, jaws agape; these are gargoyles, who vomit out the runoff of the rain (above). Bruce Dale, National Geographic, "Adored, neglected, and restored: A 1968 Nat Geo feature explored Notre Dame," 17 Apr. 2019 The tour culminated in a homecoming gig the following summer, beneath the watchful eyes of the gargoyles at Cardiff Castle. Longreads, "Manic Street Preachers’ Album The Holy Bible," 25 June 2019 Marvel at dozens of gargoyles, 135 Gothic spires darting into the heavens, and 3,140-plus statues, reportedly the most in any building anywhere. Michael J. Bailey,, "In Milan, a low-tech saunter through a mecca of high fashion," 18 June 2019 The gargoyles are approximately 2 feet by 2 feet and protrude about two feet out from the building. Bulletin Board, Twin Cities, "Sunday Bulletin Board: There’s always something new to find in this ordinary old farmhouse," 16 June 2019 Inside, past an arched gateway bedecked by gargoyles, Leonardo ushers me back to the Renaissance. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, "Why Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliance endures, 500 years after his death," 12 June 2019

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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Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for gargoyle

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on gargoyle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gargoyle

Spanish Central: Translation of gargoyle

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

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to spread over or through

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