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

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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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web Indicators of this moral ambiguity are seen among those who lauded Abbas and only criticized him for being too ostentatious thereby tipping off the FBI. Chidinma Irene Nwoye, Quartz Africa, "How the FBI used Instagram and Snapchat to track down an alleged conman in Dubai," 10 July 2020 Local media have also devoted considerable attention to documenting Tangen’s seemingly ostentatious life. Mikael Holter, Bloomberg.com, "Hedge Fund Manager Drops Control of Fortune for $1 Trillion Job," 7 June 2020 Generally speaking, anything opposite the big, bold and ostentatious aesthetic that has, particularly among the Millennial set, come to typify the region’s well-trodden wineries and its namesake varietal: Napa Cab. Kathryn Bowen, SFChronicle.com, "Where to drink in Napa, from wine industry insiders," 19 Feb. 2020 That’s not to say that gaming laptops aren’t important in our new and ruined world, but one this ostentatious somehow feels like a relic of a bygone age. Jess Grey, Wired, "Asus’ New Gaming Laptop Has Two Screens. We’re Not Sure Why," 5 May 2020 Food media during the pandemic have, sometimes surreally, seemed to abandon elitism in favor of a less ostentatious approach to cooking. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Foodie Culture Isn’t About Snobbery Anymore," 5 May 2020 The jacket, a ’60s-style number with ostentatious fringe on the front, sides and sleeves, transfixes Georges and then unhinges him. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Deerskin’ is an entrancingly warped love story between a man and his jacket," 30 Apr. 2020 That dynamic was made clear through a pair of ostentatious provocations last week, including one incident in which Iranian fast-attack boats swarmed U.S. Navy warships. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Iran saber-rattling in the Persian Gulf despite coronavirus woes," 22 Apr. 2020 DiCaprio at least gave some needed sparkle and an old-school movie-star feel to the uber-wealthy and enigmatic Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s ostentatious adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "'The Basketball Diaries' turns 25: Every Leonardo DiCaprio movie, definitively ranked," 20 Apr. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of ostentatious

1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ostentatious

see ostentation

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Time Traveler for ostentatious

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostentatious was in 1590

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Last Updated

18 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ostentatious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostentatious. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for ostentatious


How to pronounce ostentatious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ostentatious

disapproving : displaying wealth, knowledge, etc., in a way that is meant to attract attention, admiration, or envy


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.

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