What does grotesque mean?

Definitions for grotesque

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word grotesque.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. grotesqueadjective

    art characterized by an incongruous mixture of parts of humans and animals interwoven with plants

  2. grotesque, monstrousadjective

    distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous

    "tales of grotesque serpents eight fathoms long that churned the seas"; "twisted into monstrous shapes"

  3. antic, fantastic, fantastical, grotesqueadjective

    ludicrously odd

    "Hamlet's assumed antic disposition"; "fantastic Halloween costumes"; "a grotesque reflection in the mirror"


  1. grotesquenoun

    A style of ornamentation characterized by fanciful combinations of intertwined forms.

  2. grotesquenoun

    Anything grotesque.

  3. grotesquenoun

    A sans serif typeface.

  4. grotesqueadjective

    distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous

  5. grotesqueadjective

    disgusting or otherwise viscerally reviling.

  6. grotesqueadjective

    sans serif.

  7. Etymology: grotesque (French: grotesque), from grottesco, from grotta. Compare English grotto.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Grotesqueadjective

    Distorted of figure; unnatural; wildly formed.

    Etymology: grotesque, French; grottesco, Italian.

    The champaign head
    Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
    With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
    Access deny’d. John Milton, Paradise Lost, b. iv.

    There is yet a lower sort of poetry and painting, which is out of nature; for a farce is that in poetry which grotesque is in a picture: the persons and actions of a farce are all unnatural, and the manners false, that is, inconsisting with the characters of mankind: grotesque painting is the just resemblance of this. John Dryden, Dufresnoy.

    An hideous figure of their foes they drew,
    Nor lines, nor looks, nor shades, nor colours true,
    And this grotesque design expos’d to publick view. Dryden.

    Palladian walls, Venetian doors,
    Grotesco roofs, and stucco floors. Alexander Pope, Sat. of Horace.


  1. grotesque

    Grotesque often refers to a style of decorative art or an object that is characterized by distorted or exaggerated proportions and features, often to the point of being bizarre or eerie. In literature, grotesque may refer to characters or circumstances that are strange, incongruous, or absurdly unusual. This term is generally associated with something that simultaneously arouses empathy and disgust.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Grotesquenoun

    a whimsical figure, or scene, such as is found in old crypts and grottoes

  2. Grotesquenoun

    artificial grotto-work

  3. Etymology: [F., fr. It. grottesco, fr. grotta grotto. See Grotto.]


  1. Grotesque

    The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "grotto", which originated from Greek krypte "hidden place", meaning a small cave or hollow. The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century. The "caves" were in fact rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea, the unfinished palace complex started by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which had become overgrown and buried, until they were broken into again, mostly from above. Spreading from Italian to the other European languages, the term was long used largely interchangeably with arabesque and moresque for types of decorative patterns using curving foliage elements. Since at least the 18th century, grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, grotesque, however, may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as empathic pity. More specifically, the grotesque forms on Gothic buildings, when not used as drain-spouts, should not be called gargoyles, but rather referred to simply as grotesques, or chimeras.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Grotesque

    grō-tesk′, adj. extravagantly formed: ludicrous.—n. (art) extravagant ornament, containing animals, plants, &c. not really existing.—adv. Grotesque′ly.—ns. Grotesque′ness; Grotesqu′ery. [Fr. grotesque—It. grotescagrotta, a grotto.]

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  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of grotesque in Chaldean Numerology is: 9

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of grotesque in Pythagorean Numerology is: 1

Examples of grotesque in a Sentence

  1. Zalmay Khalilzad:

    The attack on Amrullah Saleh's political party offices was grotesque and a clear act of terrorism.

  2. George Takei:

    What we have is this endless cycle, the repetition of this kind of horror, injustice being inflicted on minority people, and we see it again today on our southern borders, but we've reached a new, grotesque low. We were together with our parents. Our families were intact. What we see today now is this incredible inhumanity of children being torn away from their parents.

  3. Luis Li:

    Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct, she fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.

  4. Brian Kammer:

    Today, the court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia, the intellectual disability community, which has strongly supported Mr. Hill's case for many years, joined his legal team in the belief that the Supreme Court would step in and prevent Georgia's flagrant disregard of the Constitution on behalf of the rights of people with disabilities.

  5. Stephen Colbert:

    It's predictable why these TV talkers are talking like this on the TV. They want to talk about something other than the January 6th hearings on the actual seditious insurrection that led to the deaths of multiple people, but drawing any equivalence between rioters storming our Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral ballots and a cigar-chomping toy dog is a shameful and grotesque insult to the memory of everyone who died.

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"grotesque." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 13 Jul 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/grotesque>.

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    property that provides tax income for local governments
    A contribution
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