Definition of gratuitous
- has gratuitous permission to pass over private land
- The restaurant provided a gratuitous appetizer.
- gratuitous insolence
- a gratuitous assumption
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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
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.
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.
First Known Use: 1656See Words from the same year
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