adjective os·ten·ta·tious \ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs\

Definition of ostentatious

  1. :  marked by or fond of conspicuous or vainglorious and sometimes pretentious display





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Examples of ostentatious in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. an ostentatious display of knowledge

  6. 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

see ostentation

First Known Use: 1590

Synonym Discussion of 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.

OSTENTATIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


adjective os·ten·ta·tious \ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs\

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


adjective os·ten·ta·tious \ˌä-stən-ˈtā-shəs\

Definition of ostentatious for Students

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

Seen and Heard

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capable of being understood in two ways

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