Definition of grotesque in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɡrōˈtesk/


1Comically or repulsively ugly or distorted: grotesque facial distortions
More example sentences
  • Poverty is ugly and the most grotesque form of slavery.
  • The one true romance has had its legs cut out from under it; we are left with the ugly, grotesque caricature of lust that drives these two to their ultimate doom.
  • Even the tots wore their costumes and enjoyed the fun, peering through their grotesque masks, and frightening their elders.
malformed, deformed, misshapen, misproportioned, distorted, twisted, gnarled, mangled, mutilated;
ugly, unsightly, monstrous, hideous, freakish, unnatural, abnormal, strange, odd, peculiar
informal weird, freaky
vulgar slang fugly
1.1Incongruous or inappropriate to a shocking degree: a lifestyle of grotesque luxury
outrageous, monstrous, shocking, appalling, preposterous;
ridiculous, ludicrous, farcical, unbelievable, incredible


1A very ugly or comically distorted figure, creature, or image: the rods are carved in the form of a series of gargoyle faces and grotesques
More example sentences
  • The 18th-century singeries go back to Jean Bérain, who first hit on the idea c. 1695 of replacing the classical fauns and statues of Renaissance grotesques by figures of monkeys.
  • The former is seen in the rectilinear and symmetrical designs, including some carvings and moldings that are formed with characteristic regence strapwork, grotesques, and classical motifs from antiquity.
  • The Baroque introduced grotesques along with the heavy ball dangling from the central shaft, anchoring detachable rows of arms that allowed the hanging fixture to mutate vertically.
1.1 (the grotesque) That which is grotesque: images of the macabre and the grotesque
More example sentences
  • The vogue for the grotesque extended well into the later 17th century, and, to a lesser extent, into the 18th.
1.2A style of decorative painting or sculpture consisting of the interweaving of human and animal forms with flowers and foliage.
Example sentences
  • His writing - poetry, drama, and opinions - is a curious blend of disciplined classicism and carnival grotesque.
  • The adaptation of this decorative style came to be known as grotesque, based on the word grotto.
2 Printing A family of 19th-century sans serif typefaces.



Pronunciation: /ɡrōˈtesknəs/
Example sentences
  • Masked, they were dynamic, varied, and hilarious, so that their masks actually seemed to become their faces, despite their grotesqueness; unmasked, they were slow, hesitant, and awkward, as if ashamed of the material.
  • From its opening moments, the film alternates wide-angle panoramas with screen-popping close-ups of the actors, most of whom seem to have been picked for their grotesqueness.
  • Most of the minor characters are cartoonish in their grotesqueness, and they provide an effective foil for the two leads.


Mid 16th century (as noun): from French crotesque (the earliest form in English), from Italian grottesca, from opera or pittura grottesca 'work or painting resembling that found in a grotto'; “grotto” here probably denoted the rooms of ancient buildings in Rome that had been revealed by excavations and contained murals in the grotesque style.

  • We think of something grotesque as being ugly or distorted, either in a comic or a repulsive way, but when the word first appeared in English in the 16th century it simply described the style of painting found in a grotto, specifically the murals discovered in ancient Roman ruins. These decorative wall paintings involved interweaving human and animal forms with flowers and foliage. Grotesque comes from Italian grottesca, which was used in the phrases opera grottesca ‘work resembling that found in a grotto’, and pittura grottesca ‘painting resembling one found in a grotto’. Grotty, meaning ‘unpleasant or unwell’, source of grot ‘dirt’, comes from grotesque. It was introduced to the public in 1964 in the Beatles’ film A Hard Day's Night. Grotto itself ultimately comes from Greek kruptos ‘hidden’, which is also the source of crypt ( see crossword).

Words that rhyme with grotesque

arabesque, burlesque, Dantesque, desk, humoresque, Junoesque, Kafkaesque, Moresque, picaresque, picturesque, plateresque, Pythonesque, Romanesque, sculpturesque, statuesque

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: gro·tesque

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