os·​ten·​ta·​tion | \ ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce ostentation (audio) \

Definition of ostentation

1 : excessive display : vain and unnecessary show especially for the purpose of attracting attention, admiration, or envy : pretentiousness She dresses stylishly without ostentation. an aesthetic preference for function over ostentation— Wendell Garrett their ostentation of new wealth and their prodigality with it— Mark Sullivan
2 archaic : an act of displaying

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Examples of ostentation in a Sentence

The actress avoids ostentation. She owns a small house and drives an inexpensive car. He writes simply and clearly and without ostentation.
Recent Examples on the Web But ostentation, in the words of that old American clergyman, is the signal flag of hypocrisy. John Hirschauer, National Review, "So What If an Iowa Man Tweeted Offensive Things as a Teenager?," 25 Sep. 2019 Paint did not get off to such a good start in the New World, where the Puritans frowned on ostentation. Adam Seessel, Fortune, "Valuation: For Sherwin-Williams Investors, the Color of the Year Is Green," 1 Oct. 2019 Their reasoning is that wedding photography in Nigeria is, at its crudest, an interminable record of competitive ostentation, and that enough weekends spent thus engaged might turn you into something other than an artist with integrity. Yemisi Aribisala, The New Yorker, "The Beauty and Burden of Being a Nigerian Bride," 19 Sep. 2019 By the early 1990s, the ostentation of Dallas, Dynasty, and their many imitators had paled into a punchline. Joanna Scutts, Curbed, "The shows we’ve lived by," 14 Aug. 2019 In addition to accusing Dr. Ilunga and his staff of arrogance and ostentation, the report also cataloged serious medical failures. New York Times, "In Congo, a New Plan to Fight Ebola Follows a Government Power Struggle," 26 July 2019 Maybe that's why fans love them, despite their ostentation. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "The Psychological Impact of Seeing YouTubers Spend Millions," 26 June 2019 These palatial complexes often combine ostentation, minimal contact with local communities and abundant opportunities for overindulgence. New York Times, "Crisis Hits Dominican Republic Over Deaths of U.S. Tourists," 23 June 2019 The Ours Polaire pieces are emblematic of Royère’s spirit of absolutely free creativity and reflect a true elegance without any kind of ostentation. Stephen Wallis, Town & Country, "This Polar Bear Sofa Is Beloved By the Very Rich," 15 Apr. 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ostentation

Middle English ostentacion, from Middle French, from Latin ostentation-, ostentatio, from ostentare to display, frequentative of ostendere

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Time Traveler for ostentation

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostentation was in the 15th century

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Statistics for ostentation

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ostentation.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostentation. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ostentation


How to pronounce ostentation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ostentation

disapproving : an unnecessary display of wealth, knowledge, etc., that is done to attract attention, admiration, or envy

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More from Merriam-Webster on ostentation

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ostentation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ostentation

Spanish Central: Translation of ostentation

Nglish: Translation of ostentation for Spanish Speakers

Comments on ostentation

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


dull or mediocre

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