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[groh-tesk] /groʊˈtɛsk/
odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.
fantastic in the shaping and combination of forms, as in decorative work combining incongruous human and animal figures with scrolls, foliage, etc.
any grotesque object, design, person, or thing.
Origin of grotesque
1555-65; < French < Italian grottesco (as noun, grottesca grotesque decoration such as was apparently found in excavated dwellings), derivative of grotta. See grotto, -esque
Related forms
grotesquely, adverb
grotesqueness, noun
ungrotesque, adjective
1. distorted, deformed, weird, antic, wild. See fantastic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for grotesque
  • So then you put forward the ugly as a type for imitation, you make the grotesque an element of art.
  • At end of the day, the less grotesque becomes sublime.
  • She looked like some kind of grotesque praying mantis.
  • It gets better and less grotesque, trust me.
  • His characters' faces have a grotesque, weighted-down but nevertheless sympathetic quality.
  • And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, leads to victory.
  • Later generations will wonder how we lived with something so unsightly and grotesque.
  • It reduces governance to a grotesque farce.
  • But it would be a grotesque abuse of my position to bring those views into my classroom.
  • As critics see things, this can have grotesque side-effects.
British Dictionary definitions for grotesque


strangely or fantastically distorted; bizarre: a grotesque reflection in the mirror
of or characteristic of the grotesque in art
absurdly incongruous; in a ludicrous context: a grotesque turn of phrase
a 16th-century decorative style in which parts of human, animal, and plant forms are distorted and mixed
a decorative device, as in painting or sculpture, in this style
(printing) the family of 19th-century sans serif display types
any grotesque person or thing
Derived Forms
grotesquely, adverb
grotesqueness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from French, from Old Italian (pittura) grottesca cave painting, from grottesco of a cave, from grotta cave; see grotto
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for grotesque

c.1600s, originally a noun (1560s), from Middle French crotesque (16c., Modern French grotesque), from Italian grottesco, literally "of a cave," from grotta (see grotto). The usual explanation is that the word first was used of paintings found on the walls of basements of Roman ruins (Italian pittura grottesca), which OED finds "intrinsically plausible." Originally "fanciful, fantastic," sense became pejorative after mid-18c. Related: Grotesquely; grotesqueness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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