Word Archaeology: gargoyle

This word, particularly in Gothic architecture, refers to a carved grotesque with a spout that’s designed to take water away from a rooftop and divert it from the side of a building to prevent the erosion of mortar in masonry walls. The term “gargoyle”, first used around the 13th Century, is derived from the French “gargouille” (throat) – and perhaps because the word resembled the gurgling sound of water. If the sculpture doesn’t serve as a waterspout and is only ornamental, it is known as a grotesque, chimera, or boss. They’re believed to protect the structures they guard from evil spirits.

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Wes Platt

Lead storyteller. Game designer and journalist. Recovering Floridian.

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