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adjective gris·ly \ˈgriz-lē\

Simple Definition of grisly

  • : causing horror or fear : very shocking

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of grisly


  1. 1 :  inspiring horror or intense fear <houses that were dark and grisly under the blank, cold sky — D. H. Lawrence>

  2. 2 :  inspiring disgust or distaste <a grisly account of the fire>

grisliness noun

Examples of grisly in a sentence

  1. The jurors saw grisly photos of the crime scene.

  2. <recounted the visit to the murder scene in grisly detail>

Did You Know?

An angry grizzly bear could certainly inspire fear, so "grizzly" must be a variant of "grisly," right? Yes and no. The adjective "grisly" is indeed sometimes spelled "grizzly," but the "grizzly" in "grizzly bear" is a different animal altogether. Grisly derives from an Old English predecessor, "grislic," which is itself related to an Old English verb meaning "to fear." "Grizzly" comes from the Middle English adjective grisel, meaning "gray." Like its close relative "grizzled," this grizzly means "sprinkled or streaked with gray." In other words, the grizzly got its name because the hairs of its brownish to buff coat usually have silver or pale tips, creating a grizzled effect, not because it causes terror. The misperception that the bear's name reflects its reputed fierceness probably contributed to the development of the "grizzly" variant of "grisly."

Origin of grisly

Middle English, from Old English grislic, from gris- (akin to Old English āgrīsan to fear); akin to Old High German grīsenlīh terrible

First Known Use: 12th century

Synonym Discussion of grisly

ghastly, grisly, gruesome, macabre, lurid mean horrifying and repellent in appearance or aspect. ghastly suggests the terrifying aspects of corpses and ghosts <a ghastly accident>. grisly and gruesome suggest additionally the results of extreme violence or cruelty <an unusually grisly murder> <suffered a gruesome death>. macabre implies a morbid preoccupation with the physical aspects of death <a macabre tale of premature burial>. lurid adds to gruesome the suggestion of shuddering fascination with violent death and especially with murder <the lurid details of a crime>.

Rhymes with grisly

GRISLY Defined for Kids


adjective gris·ly \ˈgriz-lē\

Definition of grisly for Students


  1. :  horrible 1, gruesome <a grisly murder>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up grisly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to expose to danger or risk

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