I was recently told that the word «gaudy» comes from the name of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. I find this hard to believe as he died in the late 1920s and it seems to me that this word is of older origin. Can you give me more information?

Gaudy: tastelessly ornate or showy

As you say, it is «hard to believe.» Probably what you really mean, of course, is «Get that ridiculous story away from me before I call the cops.»

Nobody minds a little creative conjecture every so often, but trying to trace a word such as «gaudy,» which has been in common usage since the 16th century; to a 20th century architect whose name just happens to sound like «gaudy» is a bit much.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a bit of a debate about the origin of «gaudy,» meaning «tastelessly ornate or showy.» One theory traces «gaudy» to an old Middle English term, «gaudy-green,» which was evidently a sort of bright yellowish-green. Gaudy-green dye was made from the weld plant (Reseda luteola, for you botanists out there), whose name in Old French was «gaude,» so that’s where «gaudy-green» got its name, anyway. But most etymologists doubt that «gaudy-green» was the root of our more generally tasteless, Elvis sort of «gaudy.» A more likely source is the obsolete English word «gaud,» meaning «joke, toy, or showy ornament.» This «gaud» came from the French «gaudir,» meaning «to rejoice or jest,» which came in turn from the Latin «gaudere,» meaning «to rejoice or delight in.» (That Latin «gaudere,» by the way, is also the source of the English word «joy.»)

Source: http://www.word-detective.com/120398.html

8 comments on “Does the word Gaudy come from the Catalan Architect A. Gaudí?

  • Yes historically the term referred to joy or delight however the current use/definition of showy, over the top in a negative connotation seems in current time come from possibly refer to a pun of the artist. A person would have to look up what critics of the day said.

  • It is not that «Gaudy» comes from the Catalan surname «Gaudí» but both words come from the same Latin word «Gaudēre» that means «to joy» or «to enjoy».
    As said in the entry above; «Gaudy» most likely comes from the ancient English word «gaud» that comes from the French «Gaudir» which, like the Latin word where it comes from, («Gaudēre»), means «to joy» or «to enjoy».
    We can also find the word “Gaudir” in the Catalan language having the same mentioned meaning and the same Latin origin as its French equivalent.
    Derived from the Catalan verb “Gaudir” we find the Middle Age noun word “Gaudí”. A «Gaudí» was anyone who, even thou he was not a cavalier, militiaman, honourable citizen, or titled noble, could enjoy [«gaudir»] (that means; to have) the privileges of the military class due to his job or status [See «gaudí» entry in the official Catalan language dictionary at http://www.diccionari.cat/lexicx.jsp?GECART=0069107 ].
    In the Middle Age people started to be differentiated one from the others by their job (like “Smith” or “Herrero” in Spanish), origin (like “Oxford” or “Toledo”), condition (like “Bald” or “Calvo” in Spanish ), or status (like “Cavalier” or the one that occupies us; “Gaudí”), etc. That was the origins of the surnames and the origin of our famous (not gaudy at all) catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.
    So here you have been explained how there’s really a match between “Gaudy” and «Gaudí» but an indirect way.

    • We are soon headed to Barcelona with a visit planned to Park Guell and this question did come up. Jordi, your exceptional historical explanation was a delightful read!

  • Indeed the use of the word to express garrishness certainly goes back in English long before Gaudi’s fame particularly amongst the Toffs, but as I suspected it might the root from Latin does connect the two. Fascinating read.

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