AskDefine | Define gargoyle

Dictionary Definition



1 a spout that terminates in a grotesquely carved figure of a person or animal
2 an ornament consisting of a grotesquely carved figure of a person or animal

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A carved grotesque figure on a spout which conveys water away from the gutters.
  2. A decorative carved grotesque figure on a building.
  3. In the context of "slang|pejorative": An ugly woman.


carved grotesque figure on a spout
decorative figure on a building
  • French: gargouille
pejorative slang: an ugly woman

See also

Extensive Definition

In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building.
The term originates from the French gargouille, originally "throat" or "gullet"; cf. Latin gurgulio, gula, and similar words derived from the root gar, "to swallow", which represented the gurgling sound of water (e.g., Spanish garganta, "throat"; Spanish gárgola, "gargoyle").
A chimera, or a grotesque figure, is a sculpture that does not work as a waterspout and serves only an ornamental or artistic function. These are also usually called gargoyles in laypersons' terminology,
Gargoyles were also used to scare off demonic spirts. They thought that evil spirits would come and take over their homes, to keep these aways people used Gargoyles to make the evil spirits think there was already a spirit there.

19th and 20th centuries

Monsters, or more precisely chimarae, were used as decoration on 19th and early 20th century buildings in cities such as New York (where the Chrysler Building's stainless steel gargoyles are celebrated), and Chicago. Gargoyles can be found on many churches and buildings.
One impressive collection of modern gargoyles can be found at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The cathedral, begun in 1908, is encrusted with the limestone demons. This collection also includes Darth Vader, a crooked politician, robots and many other modern spins on the ancient tradition. The 20th Century collegiate form of the Gothic Revival produced many modern gargoyles, notably at Princeton University, Washington University in St. Louis, Duke University and the University of Chicago.

Gargoyles in fiction

In contemporary fiction, gargoyles are typically depicted as a (generally) winged humanoid race with demonic features: generally horns, a tail, and talons. These fictional gargoyles can generally use their wings to fly or glide, and are often depicted as having a rocky hide, or being capable of turning into stone in one way or another.


  • Guide to Gargoyles and Other Grotesques (2003) Wendy True Gasch, ISBN 0-9745299-0-7
  • The Stone Carvers: Master Craftsmen of the Washington National Cathedral (1999) Marjorie Hunt, ISBN 1-56098-829-0 & 978-1-58834-247-8

Photo gallery

's Church, Wolstanton, England.
gargoyle in Bulgarian: Гаргойл
gargoyle in Catalan: Gàrgola
gargoyle in Czech: Chrlič
gargoyle in Welsh: Gargoil
gargoyle in Danish: Gargoil
gargoyle in German: Wasserspeier
gargoyle in Spanish: Gárgola (arquitectura)
gargoyle in Esperanto: Gargojlo
gargoyle in Persian: دهانه‌اژدر
gargoyle in French: Gargouille
gargoyle in Galician: Gárgola (arquitectura)
gargoyle in Croatian: Vodoriga
gargoyle in Icelandic: Ufsagrýla
gargoyle in Italian: Doccione
gargoyle in Hebrew: גרגויל
gargoyle in Luxembourgish: Waasserspäizer
gargoyle in Dutch: Waterspuwer
gargoyle in Japanese: ガーゴイル
gargoyle in Norwegian: Vannkaster
gargoyle in Polish: Rzygacz
gargoyle in Portuguese: Gárgula
gargoyle in Russian: Горгулья
gargoyle in Sicilian: Catusu
gargoyle in Simple English: Gargoyle
gargoyle in Finnish: Gargoili
gargoyle in Swedish: Vattenkastare
gargoyle in Thai: ปนาลี
gargoyle in Turkish: Gargoyle
gargoyle in Chinese: 滴水嘴兽

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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