kahn-tên-tay-shês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Spectacularly gaudy, pretentious, showy, tastelessly overdone just to attract attention.
Notes: Today's word is the adjective for the noun ostentation. It differs from hype in that it usually refers to visual overstatement and pretension; that is, it usually refers to show rather than tell. There is an adverb: you may dress or entertain ostentatiously. Do not confuse this word with a related one, ostensible, which means "apparent, seeming".
In Play: Ostentation is luxury overdone: "The hotel we stayed in was luxurious, but when they ran strings of tiny lights around everything in the lobby, it became outright ostentatious." Don't think, however, that just because this word basically means "showy" that it is limited to sights: "The ostentatious lifestyle of Robin Banks ultimately attracted the attention of law enforcement authorities."
Word History: This Good Word comes from Latin ostentatio "a pompous display" from ob- "before" + tendere "to stretch, extend, spread out". The original Proto-Indo-European stem that tendere comes from was something like *ten- "stretch", also seen in extend and tension. Tetanus comes from Greek tetanos "stiff, rigid", the state of something stretched. When you stretch a string (which in Greek is tonos), you can produce a tone from it. In Persian, the [n] was replaced by an [r], resulting in tar "string", a word found in the Hindi word sitar, a string instrument of India, often intricately carved and bejeweled ostentatiously.
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