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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.
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

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.


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