Gazebos are freestanding or attached to a garden wall, roofed, and open on all sides. They provide shade, shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest. Some gazebos in public parks are large enough to serve as bandstands or rain shelters.
Gazebos overlap with pavilions, kiosks, alhambras, belvederes, follies, gloriettes, pergolas, and rotundas. Such structures feature in the literature of China, Persia, and many other classical civilizations. Examples of such structures in England are the garden houses at Montacute House in Somerset. The gazebo at Elton on the Hill in Nottinghamshire, thought to date from the late 18th or early 19th century, is a square, crenelated, brick and stone tower with an arched opening. It acted as a focus for an extensive system of red-brick walled gardens, which has survived with some more modern additions. There is a prominent gazebo at the Grounds for Sculpture site in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, New Jersey, used as a summer refreshment facility.
In contemporary England and North America, gazebos are typically built of wood and covered with standard roofing materials, such as shingles. Gazebos can be tent-style structures of poles covered by tensioned fabric. Gazebos may have screens to aid in the exclusion of flying insects.
A structure resembling a gazebo, found in villages in the Maldives, is known as a holhuashi.
The etymology given by Oxford Dictionaries is "Mid 18th century: perhaps humorously from gaze, in imitation of Latin future tenses ending in -ebo: compare with lavabo." L. L. Bacon put forward a derivation from Casbah, a Muslim quarter around the citadel in Algiers. W. Sayers proposed Hispano-Arabic qushaybah, in a poem by Cordoban poet Ibn Quzman (d. 1160).
The word gazebo was used by British architects John and William Halfpenny in their book Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste (1750). Plate 55 of the book, "Elevation of a Chinese Gazebo", shows "a Chinese Tower or Gazebo, situated on a Rock, and raised to a considerable Height, and a Gallery round it to render the Prospect more complete."
- A longer definition in the Merriam-Webster Concise Encyclopedia: Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- The word as applied to late medieval structures in Iran and Turkey corresponds to a gazebo. The modern English senses of a street stall or a telephone box do not. Collins English Dictionary: "(in Turkey, Iran, etc., esp. formerly) a light open-sided pavilion."
- British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- Grounds for Sculpture. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- Word Finder Retrieved 3 May 2017.
- "gazebo". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press.
- Bacon, Leonard Lee. "Gazebos and Alambras", American Notes and Queries 8:6 (1970):87–87
- William Sayers, Eastern prospects: Kiosks, belvederes, gazebos. Neophilologus 87: 299–305, 2003.
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- Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 545. .