os·​ten·​ta·​tious ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs How to pronounce ostentatious (audio)
: 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
ostentatiously adverb
ostentatiousness noun

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."

Did you know?

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.

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

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 Everything about the store speaks to quality without being ostentatious. Rachel Marlowe, Vogue, 13 Nov. 2023 As a space, the couple’s ostentatious abode, Graceland, is especially suited to both Coppola’s thematic and visual interests, and that legendary property is in many ways as important to Priscilla as the people who live there. Nadine Smith, Pitchfork, 8 Nov. 2023 Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, who has built his reputation upon ostentatious displays of fame and fortune, is being challenged in court for inflating the value of his net worth. Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker, 16 Oct. 2023 Saturday’s match, against Ngannou, a novice, would serve mainly as an ostentatious tune-up. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 30 Oct. 2023 Their decisions lengthen scenes rather than add meaningful information or depth, and tone down their bawdy, ostentatious spectacle to the detriment of the film’s flow and momentum. Todd Gilchrist, Variety, 4 Oct. 2023 The ostentatious vehicle already reached a bid of $387,000.00 by Friday night. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 8 Oct. 2023 Short chapters narrated by von Neumann’s family and friends provide glimpses of his ostentatious lifestyle—driving a Cadillac into Los Alamos—his peerless intellect, his talent for weaponizing math. Rachel Cusk, Harper's Magazine, 21 Sep. 2023 There’s nothing wrong with ostentatious referencing, and plenty of great art flits between abstraction and figuration; the problem arises when Brown has to reconcile the two modes. Jackson Arn, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ostentatious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see ostentation

First Known Use

1590, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ostentatious was in 1590


Dictionary Entries Near ostentatious

Cite this Entry

“Ostentatious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostentatious. Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


os·​ten·​ta·​tious ˌäs-tən-ˈtā-shəs How to pronounce ostentatious (audio)
: fond of or showing ostentation
ostentatiously adverb
ostentatiousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on ostentatious

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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