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

Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb
gratuitousness noun

Synonyms for gratuitous


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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 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, employed, for example, when graphic cruelty depicted in a work of fiction is described as "gratuitous violence," or when unkind words better left unsaid are described as "a gratuitous insult."

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 But there are plenty of thrilling movies filled with gratuitous violence on the streaming service. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 30 Dec. 2021 So anything that fell outside of that focus felt a little gratuitous and tonally off. Addie Morfoot, Variety, 28 Dec. 2021 And Jon Ketzner sounded almost elegant with needlessly crude/ creedlessly nude, referring to a gratuitous comic and an undressed atheist. Washington Post, 16 Dec. 2021 Yet these gratuitous assertions -- being transgender is a sin; transgender people do not exist -- do immense harm to LGBTQ people and their families. NBC News, 10 Dec. 2021 Lines that might have sounded gratuitous back then become delicious a decade later. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2021 What’s missing from this gratuitous adaptation, which credits Watanabe as a consultant, is the atmosphere. Judy Berman, Time, 15 Nov. 2021 That the tiny sliver of this experience to do with female sexuality should be singled out by feminists for censure reflects, certainly in Ratajkowski’s case, a gratuitous inflation of male power’s scope and reach. New York Times, 8 Nov. 2021 The story has its fair share of blood and gore, but Wells never lets his descriptions become gratuitous. Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Salt Lake Tribune, 21 Oct. 2021

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

1617, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for gratuitous

Latin gratuitus, from gratus grateful

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The first known use of gratuitous was in 1617

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gratuitous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for gratuitous



English Language Learners Definition of gratuitous

: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on gratuitous

Nglish: Translation of gratuitous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gratuitous for Arabic Speakers


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