Gaudy vs. gawdy

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Gaudy and gawdy are different spellings of the same word. Gaudy is recommended by most dictionaries and usage guides, but gawdy is listed as an accepted variant. In either spelling, the word means (1) showy in a tasteless or vulgar way; or it refers to (2) a festival or raucous party, or (3) a showy ornament.


Though gaudy is much more common, it is easy to find instances of gawdy in current news publications—for example:

But before all the gawdy reflections in the yuletide mirror fragment and filter away, let me ask you this. [Milford Mercury]

Shoes, flip-flops and ripped clothing piled up a foot high across some parts of the 80-metre bridge linking Phnom Penh to a gawdy man-made entertainment. [Irish Times]

And the classy black and white shot for the single … is a huge change from her usual bright and gawdy look. [The Sun]

But most use the more dictionary-approved gaudy, as seen here:

Birds develop increasingly gaudy plumage to attract mates (or they should). [Wall Street Journal]

Diouf’s gaudy machines will cause a stir in genteel Milngavie when he rolls up to training at Gers’ Murray Park complex. [Scottish Daily Record]

Dubai’s infrastructure, relative liberalism and gaudy villas may make it the natural investment banking hub for the Arab world. [Financial Times]

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