Grotesque

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Dictionary Meaning and Definition on 'Grotesque'

Grotesque Meaning and Definition from WordNet (r) 2.0
    grotesque adj
  1. distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous; "tales of grotesque serpents eight fathoms long that churned the seas"; "twisted into monstrous shapes" [syn: monstrous, unnatural]
  2. ludicrously odd; "Hamlet's assumed antic disposition"; "fantastic Halloween costumes"; "a grotesque reflection in the mirror" [syn: antic, fantastic, fantastical] n : art characterized by an incongruous mixture of parts of humans and animals interwoven with plants
Grotesque Meaning and Definition from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
    Grotesque \Gro*tesque\, n.
  1. A whimsical figure, or scene, such as is found in old crypts and grottoes. --Dryden.
  2. Artificial grotto-work.
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Wikipedia Meaning and Definition on 'Grotesque'


The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "Grotto", meaning a small cave or hollow. The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century. The "caves" were in fact rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea, the unfinished palace complex started by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which had become overgrown and buried, until they were broken into again, mostly from above.

In modern English, grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, grotesque, however, may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as empathic pity. More specifically, the grotesque forms on Gothic buildings, when not used as drain-spouts, should not be called gargoyles, but rather referred to simply as grotesques, or chimeras.

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