Definition of ostentatious
: marked by or fond of conspicuous or vainglorious and sometimes pretentious display
Examples of ostentatious in a sentence
The power of the government was present, in its watchmen, supervisors of the market and police force, but it did not express itself in large and ostentatious buildings. —Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, 1991
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>
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.
Origin and Etymology of ostentatious
First Known Use: 1590
Synonym Discussion of ostentatious
OSTENTATIOUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of ostentatious for English Language Learners
: displaying wealth, knowledge, etc., in a way that is meant to attract attention, admiration, or envy
OSTENTATIOUS Defined for Kids
Definition of ostentatious for Students
: attracting or fond of attracting attention by showing off wealth or cleverness <They lived in a huge, ostentatious house.>
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up ostentatious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).