Gaudy

Definition: Adjective. Extravagantly showy, to the point of being tasteless.

Etymology: There is a common misunderstanding that the word gaudy is derived from the name of Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi (full name Antoni Gaudi i Cornet) who is best known for his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, a magnificent Gothic-style church in Barcelona that has never been completed. The church is recognized as an exemplar of the Catalan Modernista movement and admired by architects worldwide. However, to be fair (and at the risk of offending a few Gaudi aficionados), one look at some of the church’s details (viewed out of context, of course), adorned with a kaleidoscope of trencadis (small ceramic pieces), and you can see why some would make the connection to the word “gaudy.” However, the word has nothing to do with the famed Catalan architect and finds its roots the Middle English word, gaud (c. 1520s), meaning “trick or deception” which in turn is derived from the Old French word gaudir, meaning “to rejoice or to scoff.” Gaudir in turn, is based on the Latin word gaudere, meaning “to rejoice or delight in.”

Lexicographers have also traced the word gaudy to another Middle English term, gaudy-green, that described a bright yellowish green. The gaudy-green dye was made from a plant native to the Mediterranean region, Reseda luteola, that was called gaude in Old French. However, the first etymology provided above is the one accepted by most lexicographers.

No matter how the word was passed down to modern English, at least we have a word that precisely describes a black velvet painting of Elvis or a group of dogs playing poker.

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