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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for grotesque
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Mr. O'Carroll, without answering by voice, gave a grotesque sort of signal between a wink and a beckon.

    Devereux, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque.

    Life On The Mississippi, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • Tibbitts dancing furiously with a lady in silken attire, and striving in vain to do the high, grotesque dancing of the Parisian.

    Nasby in Exile David R. Locke
  • It was a grotesque gait, almost like a rabbit hopping on its hindlegs.

    The Escape of Mr. Trimm Irvin S. Cobb
  • Her appearance at first borders on the grotesque, but is presently seen to be nearer the august.

    Reminiscences, 1819-1899 Julia Ward Howe.
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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