Printable Version
Pronunciation: gar-goyl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Downspout in the form of a grotesque human or animal (head) directing rainwater from the gutter of a prominent building away from the building's wall. 2. A decorative projection resembling a gargoyle.

Notes: Here is a word with a fascinating complex history. It may also be used as an extremely derogatory reference to a face, but we would recommend avoiding such usage. It comes with only one derivation, gargoylish, which means "like a gargoyle".

In Play: Blah!There stands a small 16th century church in Zadar, Croatia that was built by a Venetian architect. The nobleman who ordered it ran out of money midway of completion. In vengeance for failure to pay, the architect created gargoyles resembling all the members of the nobleman's family. The nobleman had enough money to replace them forthwith.

Word History: This word arose in the 13th century, probably under the influence of Old French gargouille "throat, gargoyle", the noun underlying gargouiller "to gargle". French inherited its word from Latin gurgulio "gullet", which seems to come from a reduplication of PIE gwer-/gwor- "throat, swallow" as in Sanskrit gargarah? "gullet, whirlpool", and ancient Greek gargareon "throat". The reduplication is probably from a PIE phrase like 'glub-glub' in English. Remnants of the PIE word are also found in Sanskrit girati "devours", ancient Greek voros "voracious", Persian gulu "throat", Russian gorlo 'throat", Serbian grlo "throat", and English gargle and (to) gorge. We also see its remains in Lithuanian gerti and Latvian dzert "to drink", and Albanian zorrë "bowel". (Now let's all give Gary Cook an e-bow for suspecting the rich history of today's Good Word and recommending it to us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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