Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 5th, 2015
Episode 310 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 05, 2015 is: gargoyle \GAR-goy-ul\ noun 1 a : a spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building b : a grotesquely carved figure 2 : a person with an ugly face Examples: Erin drew a series of hilarious caricatures of her family portrayed as gargoyles. "I followed to the cathedral façade and set up my camera equipment. I couldn't find the peregrine at first but then I saw feathers floating down on the breeze. He was perched on a gargoyle high near the top of the tower." Robert E. Fuller, The Gazette & Herald (Ryedale, England), 1 July 2015 Did you know? In the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux reportedly complained about the new sculptures in the cloisters where he lived. "Surely," he is quoted as saying, "if we do not blush for such absurdities we should at least regret what we have spent on them." St. Bernard was apparently provoked by the grotesque figures designed to drain rainwater from buildings. By the 13th century, those figures were being called gargoyles, a name that came to Middle English from the Old French gargoule. The stone beasts likely earned that name because of the water that gargled out of their throats and mouths; the word gargoule is imitative in origin.