gra·​tu·​i·​tous | \ grə-ˈtü-ə-təs How to pronounce gratuitous (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Definition of gratuitous

1 : not called for by the circumstances : not necessary, appropriate, or justified : unwarranted a gratuitous insult a gratuitous assumption a movie criticized for gratuitous violence
2a : given unearned or without recompense We mistake the gratuitous blessings of Heaven for the fruits of our own industry.— Roger L'Estrange
b : costing nothing : free It was printed in France at the author's expense, for gratuitous distribution to educators and others.Current Biography
c law : not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration has gratuitous permission to pass over private land

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Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb
gratuitousness noun

These Gratuitous Facts Are Free

Like gratitude, grace, and congratulate, gratuitous is a descendant of the Latin word gratus, which means "pleasing" or "grateful." When gratuitous was first used in the middle of the 17th century, it meant "free" or "given without return benefit or compensation." The extended meaning "done without good reason" or "unwarranted" came about just a few decades later, perhaps from the belief held by some people that one should not give something without getting something in return. Today, that extended meaning is the more common sense, often used in such phrases as "a gratuitous insult" or to describe elements of a story that are not relevant to the plot.

Examples of gratuitous in a Sentence

The film was criticized for its gratuitous violence. they will throw in a gratuitous box of chocolates when you spend $30 or more in their shop
Recent Examples on the Web For years, he was bedeviled by public messages that lacked necessary apostrophes or added gratuitous ones. Author: Antonia Noori Farzan, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Ignorance and laziness’ win: Former editor ends battle to put the apostrophe in its correct place," 2 Dec. 2019 The speechifying is set to a minimum, and the scenes of torture at black sites are harrowing without feeling gratuitous. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "The Report Is the Political Thriller of the Year," 15 Nov. 2019 The gratuitous looks at the pectoral region is just a bonus. Nick Romano,, "Hot daddy Batty: Batman #79 artist talks Bruce Wayne's beefcake beach bod," 17 Sep. 2019 That crime is the novel’s link to the conceit of the gratuitous. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "Sex and Power in “The Catholic School”," 19 Aug. 2019 His tariffs have caused gratuitous and serious damage to the US economy, the world economy and the global trading system. Jeffrey Sachs For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "China isn't the economic manipulator in this trade war. Trump is," 6 Aug. 2019 But plot is very nearly incidental to this novel; all of its real conviction lies in style, which is, in an age suspicious of ornament, defiantly baroque, studded with gratuitous beauties. Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker, "Caleb Crain’s “Overthrow” and the Power of Literary Form," 28 Aug. 2019 But uncertainty caused by erratic policymakers is gratuitous. Peter Baker, New York Times, "A Gyrating Economy, and Trump’s Volatile Approach to It, Raise Alarms," 23 Aug. 2019 In 1942 Joseph Goebbels scrambled to present the Baedeker raids, in which Nazi planes attacked historic British towns, as legitimate retaliation rather than gratuitous vandalism. The Economist, "The vandalism of modern warfare," 18 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gratuitous.' 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 gratuitous

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for gratuitous

Latin gratuitus, from gratus grateful

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Time Traveler for gratuitous

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The first known use of gratuitous was in 1656

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Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Gratuitous.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

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More Definitions for gratuitous


How to pronounce gratuitous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gratuitous

formal : not necessary or appropriate


gra·​tu·​i·​tous | \ grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü- How to pronounce gratuitous (audio) \

Legal Definition of gratuitous

: not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration — compare onerous

Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb

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Comments on gratuitous

What made you want to look up gratuitous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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