- 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; 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
c.1600s, originally a noun (1560s), from Middle French crotesque (16c., Modern French grotesque), from Italian grottesco, literally “of a cave,” from grotta (see ). 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.