Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by ludicrous or incongruous distortion, as of appearance or manner.
  • adj. Outlandish or bizarre, as in character or appearance. See Synonyms at fantastic.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being the grotesque style in art or a work executed in this style.
  • n. One that is grotesque.
  • n. A style of painting, sculpture, and ornamentation in which natural forms and monstrous figures are intertwined in bizarre or fanciful combinations.
  • n. A work of art executed in this style.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous
  • adj. disgusting or otherwise viscerally reviling.
  • adj. sans serif.
  • n. A style of ornamentation characterized by fanciful combinations of intertwined forms.
  • n. Anything grotesque.
  • n. A sans serif typeface.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Like the figures found in ancient grottoes; grottolike.
  • adj. Wildly or strangely formed; whimsical; extravagant; of irregular forms and proportions; fantastic; ludicrous; antic.
  • n. A whimsical figure, or scene, such as is found in old crypts and grottoes.
  • n. Artificial grotto-work.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Consisting of or resembling artificial grotto-work.
  • Hence Of the fantastic character of such grotto-work and of its decoration; wildly formed; of irregular forms and proportions; ludicrous; antic (which see), as the arabesques of the Renaissance, in which figures human to the waist terminate in scrolls, leafage, and the like, and are associated with animal forms and impossible flowers; hence, in general, whimsical, extravagant, or odd; absurdly bold: often, or more commonly, used in a sense of condemnation or depreciation.
  • Synonyms Fantastic, etc. (see fanciful); whimsical, wild, strange.
  • n. That which is grotesque, as an uncouth or ill-proportioned figure, rude and savage scenery, an inartistic, clownish, or absurd fancy, a clumsy satire, or the like.
  • n. Specifically In art, a capricious figure, work, or ornament; especially, a variety of arabesque which as a whole has no type in nature, being a combination of the parts of animals and plants, and of other incongruous elements.
  • n. In printing, any uncouth form of type; specifically, in Great Britain, the black square-cut display-type called gothic in the United States.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. ludicrously odd
  • adj. distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous
  • n. art characterized by an incongruous mixture of parts of humans and animals interwoven with plants

Etymologies

From French, a fanciful style of decorative art, from Italian grottesca, from feminine of grottesco, of a grotto, from grotta, grotto; see grotto.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle French grotesque (French: grotesque), from Italian grottesco ("of a cave"), from grotta. Compare English grotto. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In one marvellous passage he defines the word "grotesque" from the word grotto, a small cave and goes on to sing the praises of the "modern master printers who think like the scribes of our old Icelandic languages" and decorate their texts with impossible creatures –"a centaur here, an old woman with birds' feet there, a three-headed dog".

    From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón - review

  • The Landless People's Movement (LPM) lamented on Thursday what it described as a grotesque distortion of its programmes by the media, and denied it had any violent or lawless intentions.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • The Middle Ages, more than any other period, are rich in instances of that intimate blending of the comic and the horrible which we call the grotesque; the witches 'Sabbath, the hoofed and horned devil, the hideous figures of Dante's hell; the

    A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century

  • US hardens line on Syria's Assad THE US says it has no interest in seeing Syria's President Bashar al-Assad survive simply to preserve regional "stability", hardening its line on what it termed a "grotesque" crackdown on dissent.

    NEWS.com.au | Top Stories

  • Times Picayune had an editorial earlier this week describing what they called a grotesque and nauseating pattern of police cover-ups.

    Democracy Now!

  • Women's Bodies, shows what she calls grotesque, vulgar and humiliating creatures, with inflated silicone bodies, oozing out of plunging necklines, tottering on stiletto heels.

    NPR Topics: News

  • Soon Brundle becomes more fly and less man and it all ends in grotesque tears.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • This is a deranged concept leading an innocent man to do horrific tasks in grotesque detail, and it puts it all in first person.

    EXTRALIFE – By Scott Johnson - Some skinny on the actual play of Manhunt 2

  • Equally grotesque is Hitler in the center, wearing a Phrygian cap and an arm band with a swastika and star.

    Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera - The Murals

  • Barbaro, pulled up lame at the start of the race, his right rear ankle swinging in grotesque circles.

    The Two Minute Rule

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