os·​ten·​ta·​tious | \ ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs How to pronounce ostentatious (audio) \

Definition of ostentatious

: attracting or seeking to attract attention, admiration, or envy often by gaudiness or obviousness : overly elaborate or conspicuous : characterized by, fond of, or evincing ostentation an ostentatious display of wealth/knowledge The power of the government was present … but it did not express itself in large and ostentatious buildings.— Albert Hourani

Other Words from ostentatious

ostentatiously adverb
ostentatiousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ostentatious

showy, pretentious, ostentatious mean given to excessive outward display. showy implies an imposing or striking appearance but usually suggests cheapness or poor taste. the performers' showy costumes pretentious implies an appearance of importance not justified by the thing's value or the person's standing. a pretentious parade of hard words ostentatious stresses vainglorious display or parade. the ostentatious summer homes of the rich

Did you know?

Showy, pretentious, and ostentatious all mean "given to outward display," but there are subtle differences in their meanings. Showy implies an imposing or striking appearance, but usually also implies cheapness or bad taste. Pretentious suggests an appearance of importance not justified by a thing's value or a person's standing. Ostentatious is the biggest show-off, stressing the vanity of the display. English speakers derived ostentatious from the noun ostentation, which can be traced back, via Middle French, to the Latin verb ostentare (meaning "to display"), a frequentative form of the verb ostendere, meaning "to show."

How is ostentatious used?

Ostentatious comes from a Latin word meaning "display," and the idea of display is still very apparent in the English word as it is currently used.

People and things described as ostentatious seem to have put themselves on display; they are practically begging to be looked at. The word is not compliment.

Ostentatious is often applied to buildings that can also be described as luxurious—mansions, fancy high-rises, huge houses with marble columns. Sometimes the description appears in the negative, as when we're told that a house is large, but not ostentatious, which means that it's large but not in a way that calls attention to itself. When the word is applied to objects like clothes and jewelry, the idea is the same: such items attract attention for the luxury they imply.

People who are described as ostentatious—or who have lifestyles described as such—typically are seen as spending money in a way that makes it clear that they have a lot of it. Their consumption may also be described with the word, in which case the emphasis is on the impressive things they buy.

Less often, ostentatious is applied to what attracts attention not because of an implied luxury but because of some other quality. Someone's boastful declarations about volunteer work may be described, for example, as ostentatious.

Examples of ostentatious in a Sentence

That pompous excuse for a plush ride is a thumb in the eye to every taxpayer—and in the case of an ostentatious cost-cutter, genuine hypocrisy. — William Safire, New York Times, 2 May 1991 Always proud to sit down with an ice-cold beer in my hand, I was ostentatious about it in town. — Mark Helprin, New Yorker, 30 May 1988 She had driven to Prague from the Netherlands in her Porsche, telling friends she didn't give a hoot how ostentatious she might appear to the comrades. — Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 4 Aug. 1986 an ostentatious display of knowledge wears an ostentatious diamond ring on his little finger
Recent Examples on the Web Kainerugaba’s associates describe him as a dedicated military officer who often eschews ostentatious displays of power and wealth. Rodney Muhumuza, ajc, 8 May 2022 Interiors have a restful autumnal palette of warm ochres and creamy whites, and promise to give a feeling of relief from city stresses thanks to intimate spaces like a tiny lobby that's a far cry from the ostentatious hallways at other hotels. Rooksana Hossenally, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 Bel-Air also revels in ostentatious consumption, as reflected in its hip-hop soundtrack. Tanisha C. Ford, The Atlantic, 19 Apr. 2022 To the Christian Celts and the Irish, however, such ostentatious displays were considered unacceptably pagan. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Apr. 2022 Kerimov, 56, is a reclusive figure who rarely grants interviews but is known for ostentatious displays. Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2022 French laws prohibit wearing ostentatious religious symbols — the head scarf is considered one — in schools. New York Times, 17 Apr. 2022 Perhaps the most ostentatious investment was the purchase by Roman Abramovich of the capital’s biggest soccer clubs, Chelsea FC, founded in 1905. NBC News, 9 Apr. 2022 The emails, strongly worded with ostentatious fonts and graphics, open a window into the campaigns and their strategies as the June 7 election nears. Joshua Sharpe, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ostentatious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ostentatious

1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ostentatious

see ostentation

Learn More About ostentatious

Time Traveler for ostentatious

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostentatious was in 1590

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About ostentatious

Dictionary Entries Near ostentatious




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ostentatious

Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ostentatious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostentatious. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ostentatious


os·​ten·​ta·​tious | \ ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs How to pronounce ostentatious (audio) \

Kids Definition of ostentatious

: attracting or fond of attracting attention by showing off wealth or cleverness They lived in a huge, ostentatious house.

More from Merriam-Webster on ostentatious

Nglish: Translation of ostentatious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ostentatious for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!