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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 grotesquely
  • Complex nations were grotesquely simplified for the voters back home and the boys sent to fight abroad.
  • It's also true that the teaching of languages here is still grotesquely biased towards writing, instead of speaking.
  • Defence spending is grotesquely disproportionate to any other kind of spending the government does.
  • He also stuttered grotesquely, often rendered speechless by the impediment.
  • His grotesquely heavy performance might be borrowed from an old silent film.
  • They were children of parents who'd acted grotesquely, some might say violently, toward them.
  • Nuanced empathy can feel so grotesquely inadequate to the truth.
  • The press coverage of string theory until the past couple years has been grotesquely overoptimistic and one-sided.
  • From elbow to fingertips, all the skin on my right arm had come loose and was hanging grotesquely.
  • Her tiny frame was grotesquely swollen with fluid and her liver severely compromised.
British Dictionary definitions for grotesquely


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 grotesquely



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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