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 formsgro·tesque·ly, adverbgro·tesque·ness, nounun·gro·tesque, adjective

Synonyms for grotesque Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for grotesqueness

Historical Examples of grotesqueness

  • This man, in spite of his grotesqueness, was quite in earnest, there was no doubting that.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • Even in that exciting moment Terry saw the grotesqueness of the situation.

  • Perhaps the grotesqueness of that former scene was in his mind.

    Robert Elsmere

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • And the grotesqueness of an individual has essentially the same nature.

    The Sense of Beauty

    George Santayana

  • Beneath Paragot's grotesqueness ran an unprecedented severity.

    The Belovd Vagabond

    William J. Locke

British Dictionary definitions for grotesqueness



strangely or fantastically distorted; bizarrea grotesque reflection in the mirror
of or characteristic of the grotesque in art
absurdly incongruous; in a ludicrous contexta 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 Formsgrotesquely, adverbgrotesqueness, noun

Word Origin for grotesque

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

Word Origin and History for grotesqueness



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