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See also: gew-gaw


Alternative forms[edit]


From earlier gugaw, gygaw, from Middle English givegove (gewgaw, trifle), a reduplication of Middle English give, geove (gift), from Old English giefu, geofu, geafu (gift), from Proto-Germanic *gebō (gift). Compare Icelandic gyligjöf (showy gifts, gewgaw). More at give.



gewgaw (plural gewgaws)

  1. A showy trifle, a toy; a showy trinket, ornament or decoration. [from 15th c.]
    • 1693, Decimus Junius Juvenalis; John Dryden, transl., “[The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis.] The Tenth Satyr”, in The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. [] Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. [], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson [], OCLC 80026745:
      A heavy gewgaw called a crown.
    • 1883, Nathaniel Hawthorne, chapter 15, in Doctor Grimshawe's Secret:
      It was a Saxon ornament. [] Some Puritan, before his departure, may have thought himself doing God service by filching the old golden gewgaw.
    • 1951, Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1974 Panther Books Ltd publication), part V: “The Merchant Princes”, chapter 11, page 163, ¶¶ 2–4:
      “I am not of the neighbourhood,” said Mallow, calmly, “but the matter is irrelevant. I have had the honour to send you a little gift yesterday ——” [¶] The tech-man’s nose lifted. “I received it. An interesting gewgaw. I may have use for it on occasion.” [¶] I have other and more interesting gifts. Quite out of the gewgaw stage.”
    • 2011, Will Self, "The frowniest spot on Earth", London Review of Books, XXXIII.9:
      You or I may well view our desire to push buttons and order new electronic gewgaws as the mere reflex spasms of consumerism, but to this dynamic duo the future of the earth depends on our instant gratification more than anything else.



gewgaw (not comparable)

  1. Showy; unreal; pretentious.
    • 1678, Dryden, John, All for Love, Scene II,
      The rattle of a globe to play withal,
      This gewgaw world, and put him cheaply off;
    • 1855, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Maud; A Monodrama, X, stanza 1,
      Seeing his gewgaw castle shine,
      New as his title, built last year.


Derived terms[edit]