gra·​tu·​i·​tous | \ grə-ˈtü-ə-təs How to pronounce gratuitous (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Definition of gratuitous

1 : not called for by the circumstances : not necessary, appropriate, or justified : unwarranted a gratuitous insult a gratuitous assumption a movie criticized for gratuitous violence
2a : given unearned or without recompense We mistake the gratuitous blessings of Heaven for the fruits of our own industry.— Roger L'Estrange
b : costing nothing : free It was printed in France at the author's expense, for gratuitous distribution to educators and others.Current Biography
c law : not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration has gratuitous permission to pass over private land

Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb
gratuitousness noun

Synonyms for gratuitous


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These Gratuitous Facts Are Free

Like gratitude, grace, and congratulate, gratuitous is a descendant of the Latin word gratus, which means "pleasing" or "grateful." When gratuitous was first used in the 17th century, it meant "free" or "given without return benefit or compensation." The extended meaning "done without good reason" or "unwarranted" came about just a few decades later, perhaps from the belief held by some people that one should not give something without getting something in return. Today, that extended meaning is the more common sense, employed, for example, when graphic cruelty depicted in a work of fiction is described as "gratuitous violence," or when unkind words better left unsaid are described as "a gratuitous insult."

Examples of gratuitous in a Sentence

The film was criticized for its gratuitous violence. they will throw in a gratuitous box of chocolates when you spend $30 or more in their shop
Recent Examples on the Web There is shooting, martial arts and torture, gratuitous and otherwise. John Anderson, WSJ, 21 July 2022 From the start, Persuasion lays bare its conviction that this particular Austen heroine makes almost too much sense for our own moment, with our hyper-ironic personas and gratuitous fits of self-awareness. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, 16 July 2022 Throughout the show's eight seasons, the depiction of Thrones' female characters became a core talking point among viewers — particularly what some felt to be gratuitous violence and the undermining of various women's journeys to power. Nick Romano,, 13 July 2022 In Gaydos’s soft and honest delivery, the struggles and joys of life — plant, human, animal — come across as neither graphic nor gratuitous, but simply real. Sebastian Modak, New York Times, 11 June 2022 Every day, the war in Ukraine reminds us of the gratuitous and appalling loss that occurs in a conflict between forces set up for the express purpose of killing. John R. Macarthur, Harper’s Magazine , 25 May 2022 And unfortunately in this day and age, disturbing, gratuitous and horrifying crime sticks in our memory like a piece of spinach caught in your teeth. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 29 Apr. 2022 Another broad comedy with lazy writing and perfunctory acting, with lots of gratuitous guest spots from his friends? Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 2 June 2022 Known as the Pilot FL400R, it's rated R for gratuitous use of red paint on its tubular frame and plastic bodywork. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, 26 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of gratuitous

1617, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for gratuitous

Latin gratuitus, from gratus grateful

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The first known use of gratuitous was in 1617

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gratuitous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for gratuitous


gra·​tu·​i·​tous | \ grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü- How to pronounce gratuitous (audio) \

Legal Definition of gratuitous

: not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration — compare onerous

Other Words from gratuitous

gratuitously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on gratuitous

Nglish: Translation of gratuitous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gratuitous for Arabic Speakers


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