gra·tu·i·tous | \grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -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

The scenes of violence against women are critical to the points of the shows, and not usually gratuitous or exploitive. Matthew Gilbert,, "There’s Emmy drama in the face-off between two of this year’s very best," 12 July 2018 The runner-up is aforementioned guys-night-out art party, which felt gratuitous and fake, through and through. Mike Scott,, "'Southern Charm New Orleans,' Episode 2: Champagne cocktails and nude models," 23 Apr. 2018 The culprit, more often than not: a gratuitous amount of pitching changes. Dennis Lin,, "Padres serve up seven Twins home runs in 16-0 shellacking," 13 Sep. 2017 Nonsensical twists, bad speeches, and so, so much death, multiple bodies in every movie, the pile-up somehow both tedious and gratuitous. Jason Kehe, WIRED, "Sci-Fi Invades Netflix—as They Both Invade Your Home," 9 July 2018 The majority of the band’s nearly three-hour performance on Saturday was dedicated to such vintage hits, counterbalanced with comedy bits, guest spots, gratuitous solos, and what can be best described as an extended karaoke segment. Drew Lazor,, "Foo Fighters go old school at the BB&T Pavilion on their Concrete and Gold tour," 8 July 2018 Angry customers use gratuitous profanity, vow never to do business with the company again, promise to sue — or all three. CEOs forward those e-mails to their legal departments, often black holes for complaints. Christopher Elliott,, "Got a complaint about the travel industry? Take it to the top," 26 June 2018 Instead, Instagram — still hugely popular as a place to post glossy, aspirational images of your vacation, your coffee, or gratuitous selfies — has grown into a home away from home to consume screenshots of the best content from those services. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "Young people still love Twitter — as screenshots on Instagram," 21 June 2018 Mental health experts say exposure to media coverage of a high-profile suicide, especially coverage which fixates on the gratuitous details of a person's death, can lead to more suicides. Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY, "The unintentional consequences of suicide coverage," 6 June 2018

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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Statistics for gratuitous

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for gratuitous

The first known use of gratuitous was in 1656

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English Language Learners Definition of gratuitous

: not necessary or appropriate


gra·tu·i·tous | \grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü- \

Legal Definition of gratuitous 

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

Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb

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