noun gro·tesque \grō-ˈtesk\

Definition of grotesque

  1. 1a :  a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness, or caricatureb :  a piece of work in this style an ornate structure, embellished with grotesques

  2. 2 :  one that is grotesque

  3. 3 :  sans serif

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Examples of grotesque in a sentence

  1. a gallery of grotesques from some sicko horror movie

Origin and Etymology of grotesque

Medieval French & Old Italian; Medieval French, from Old Italian (pittura) grottesca, literally, cave painting, feminine of grottesco of a cave, from grotta —see grotto

First Known Use: 1561



adjective gro·tesque

Definition of grotesque

  1. :  of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the grotesque: such asa :  fanciful, bizarre a grotesque Halloween costumeb :  absurdly incongruousc :  departing markedly from the natural, the expected, or the typical animals with grotesque deformities





Examples of grotesque in a sentence

  1. The actors wore dark capes and grotesque masks.

  2. a grotesque distortion of the facts

Did You Know?

During the Italian Renaissance, Romans of culture took a great interest in their country's past and began excavating ancient buildings. During their excavations, they uncovered chambers (known in Italian as grotte, in reference to their cavelike appearance) decorated with artwork depicting fantastic combinations of human and animal forms interwoven with strange fruits and flowers. The Italian word grottesca became the name for this unique art style, and by 1561 it had mutated into the English noun "grotesque." The adjective form of "grotesque" was first used in the early 17th century to describe the decorative art but is now used to describe anything bizarre, incongruous, or unusual.

Origin and Etymology of grotesque

see 1grotesque

First Known Use: 1603

Synonym Discussion of grotesque

fantastic, bizarre, grotesque mean conceived, made, or carried out without adherence to truth or reality. fantastic may connote extravagance in conception or ingenuity of decorative invention dreamed up fantastic rumors. bizarre applies to the sensationally strange and implies violence of contrast or incongruity of combination a bizarre medieval castle in the heart of a modern city. grotesque may apply to what is conventionally ugly but artistically effective or it may connote ludicrous awkwardness or incongruity often with sinister or tragic overtones grotesque statues on the cathedral though grieving, she made a grotesque attempt at a smile.

GROTESQUE Defined for English Language Learners



adjective gro·tesque

Definition of grotesque for English Language Learners

  • : very strange or ugly in a way that is not normal or natural

  • : extremely different from what is expected or usual

GROTESQUE Defined for Kids


adjective gro·tesque \grō-ˈtesk\

Definition of grotesque for Students

  1. :  unnatural in an odd or ugly way

Seen and Heard

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


holding stubbornly to a belief or view

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