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Unknown, possibly from obsolete Middle English gawren (to stare) which is of uncertain origin, probably from Old Norse (to watch, heed) or gaurr (rough fellow) (Proto-Indo-European *gʰow-rós, from *gʰew- (to be angry)).[1][2] Compare with English gaw.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɡɛəɹɪʃ/
  • (file)


garish (comparative more garish, superlative most garish)

  1. Overly ostentatious; so colourful as to be in bad taste. [from 1540s]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:gaudy
    The dress fits her well, but the pattern is rather garish.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter VIII, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC:
      "My tastes," he said, still smiling, "incline me to the garishly sunlit side of this planet." And, to tease her and arouse her to combat: "I prefer a farandole to a nocturne; I'd rather have a painting than an etching; Mr. Whistler bores me with his monochromatic mud; I don't like dull colours, dull sounds, dull intellects; []."
    • 1951 October, R. S. McNaught, “Lines of Approach”, in Railway Magazine, page 703:
      On the other hand, to arrive after dusk, when the multitude of garish little public-houses are lit up, giving glimpses of crowded jostling bars and taprooms, is an introduction to a fine city well calculated to affect even the most nonchalant.
    • 2003 August 10, Ken Keeler, “The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings”, in Futurama, season 5, episode 16 (television production), Fox Broadcasting Company:
      Leela: He gave me mechanical ears / Effective though just a bit garish.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 57:
      She also said that Thameslink trains were deliberately garish, so as to lure drivers stuck on the M1, which runs alongside the line around Radlett.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “garish”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ Mallory, J. P., Adams, D. Q. (2006) The Oxford introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European world, Oxford University Press