gall

1 of 4

noun (1)

1
: brazen boldness often with brash self-confidence : nerve, effrontery
I can't believe she said that! What gall!
… the chutzpah, the unmitigated gall, the boldness of these guys …Anthony M. Amore, quoted in Toronto Star (online)
… the sheer gall and effrontery of the genuine … grifter …Lucy Mangan
usually used in the phrase have the gall
Once again he has the gall to blame the Press he hates for reporting what he and his wife have said.Robert Jobson
(humorous) … the head coach had the gall to suggest his poorly performing team was performing poorly.Cathal Kelly
When caught red-handed, don't have the gall (or stupidity) to try to deny it.Jane Moore
Our society has a propensity for covertly liking the "unlikeable". Maybe it's because we appreciate those who do and say things we don't have the gall to put forth ourselves …Adam Ramos
2
: bile sense 1a
especially : ox gall
3
a
: something bitter to endure
… Ed McBain's new 87th Precinct police procedural, whose dark plot of romantic betrayal and legal injustice comes laced with the bitter gall of irony.Marilyn Stasio
b
: bitterness of spirit : rancor
He seemed to be full of hatred and gall against every thing and every body in the world …Herman Melville

gall

2 of 4

verb

galled; galling; galls

transitive verb

1
: irritate, vex
sarcasm galls her
2
: to fret and wear away by friction : chafe
the loose saddle galled the horse's back
the galling of a metal bearing

intransitive verb

1
: to become sore or worn by rubbing
2

gall

3 of 4

noun (2)

: an abnormal outgrowth of plant tissue usually due to insect or mite parasites or fungi and sometimes forming an important source of tannin see gall wasp illustration

gall

4 of 4

noun (3)

1
a
: a skin sore caused by chronic irritation
b
: a cause or state of exasperation
2
archaic : flaw
Choose the Right Synonym for gall

temerity, audacity, hardihood, effrontery, nerve, cheek, gall, chutzpah mean conspicuous or flagrant boldness.

temerity suggests boldness arising from rashness and contempt of danger.

had the temerity to refuse

audacity implies a disregard of restraints commonly imposed by convention or prudence.

an entrepreneur with audacity and vision

hardihood suggests firmness in daring and defiance.

admired for her hardihood

effrontery implies shameless, insolent disregard of propriety or courtesy.

outraged at his effrontery

nerve, cheek, gall, and chutzpah are informal equivalents for effrontery.

the nerve of that guy
has the cheek to call herself a singer
had the gall to demand proof
the chutzpah needed for a career in show business

Examples of gall in a Sentence

Verb It galls me that such a small group of people can have so much power. move that rope so the sharp edge of the hull doesn't gall it
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
By 2017, Lear had experienced the gall of watching Americans cruelly disregard one another’s experiences, backgrounds and beliefs in a tidal shift of populist politics. Hank Stuever, Washington Post, 6 Dec. 2023 And today, Hunter has the unmitigated gall to pull a stunt in committee. Rachel Schilke, Washington Examiner, 10 Jan. 2024 Even before the immediate shock of the terrorist group’s brutal surprise attack had worn off, college campuses were raging with anger not at the attackers but at the unbearable provocation of Israel’s existence, and the intolerable gall of its determination to secure its people. Yuval Levin, National Review, 6 Nov. 2023 The crown gall bacteria themselves need a wound on the plant in order to begin an infection, which can arise from bark cuts during planting to soil-dwelling insect feeding or even contaminated sap spread from branch to branch. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 30 Mar. 2023 Some Yiddish vocabulary is already ingrained in that broader culture — words such as chutzpah (meaning gall), mensch (a good, decent person) and oy (often conveying exasperation). Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Washington Post, 23 Sep. 2023 Above the books hangs a swath of raw linen adorned with oak galls — scabs shed from the trees Argote passes on routine walks in her neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Jennifer Piejko, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 To set up a promo stand in a state where your company was currently embroiled in litigation against that state took a certain kind of gall. Ben McKenzie, Rolling Stone, 17 July 2023 The agency takes extreme precaution to slow the degradation of these fragile records, made of parchment and featuring iron gall ink. Sean Catangui, New York Times, 14 July 2023
Verb
Pashinyan also took a number of diplomatic—or, rather, undiplomatic—steps that galled Russia. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, 29 Sep. 2023 The surging numbers are especially galling in a country that appeared within reach of wiping out syphilis around the turn of the millennium. Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 This exclusion was especially galling given the history. Vulture, 23 Oct. 2023 And many are galled that the law will provide conditional immunity to perpetrators who step forward and offer self-incriminating evidence, no matter how terrible their crimes. David Segal, New York Times, 13 Oct. 2023 Scrambling, mostly futilely, for publishers in other countries, he was also clearly galled by the commercially more successful writer’s unwillingness to leave his German publishers and readers. Pankaj Mishra, The New York Review of Books, 12 Oct. 2023 The inflation of the past three years is especially galling for autoworkers, who agreed to give up automatic cost-of-living increases in 2008 when two of the Big Three filed for bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by the federal government. Bypaige Hagy, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2023 Video calls slavery a ‘compromise’ Critics have been particularly galled by PragerU’s history lessons related to slavery. Steven Porter, BostonGlobe.com, 9 Aug. 2023 Its failure to convict Trump understandably galls many of his opponents — left, right, and center. The Editors, National Review, 2 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gall.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English galle, going back to Old English gealla, galla, going back to Germanic *gallōn-, galla- (whence Old High German & Old Saxon galla, Old Norse gall), going back to Indo-European *ǵholh3-n- (whence, without the suffix, Greek cholḗ "bile, bitter hatred," chólos "bitter hatred, wrath," Avestan zāra- "bile"), a derivative of *ǵhelh3- "green, yellow" — more at yellow entry 1

Note: The sense "boldness," first attested in the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century, is perhaps of independent origin.

Verb

Middle English gallen, in part derivative of galle gall entry 4, in part borrowed from Middle French galer "to scratch, rub, mount an attack on," derivative of gale "gallnut, callus," borrowed from Latin galla gall entry 3

Noun (2)

Middle English galle, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin galla "gallnut, oak apple," of obscure origin

Note: Latin galla cannot be akin to gall entry 4 if the latter does in fact descend from Indo-European *ǵholH-, and in any case the basic meaning of galla appears to be "excrescence" rather than "sore, blight."

Noun (3)

Middle English galle "sore on the skin, stain, evil, barren or wet spot in a field (in names)," probably in part going back to Anglian Old English *galla (West Saxon gealla) "sore on the skin of a horse," in part borrowed from Middle Low German galle "swelling in a joint, blastodisc, barren place," both nouns going back to Germanic *gallan- (whence also Old Norse galli "fault, flaw"), perhaps going back to an Indo-European base *ǵholH-, whence, from the derivative *ǵholH-r-, Norwegian galder "windgall," Old Irish galar "disease, pain," Welsh galar "mourning, grief"

Note: Perhaps additionally connected are Lithuanian žalà "harm, damage" (from *ǵholH-eh2), Hittite kallar "nefarious thing, demon" (from *ǵholH-ro-), Old Church Slavic zŭlŭ "bad, evil" (from zero-grade *ǵhlH-o-). According to an older hypothesis the Germanic words are a borrowing from Latin galla "gallnut, oak apple" (see gall entry 3), but given the wide distribution and range of meanings of the Germanic words, this appears unlikely.

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of gall was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near gall

Cite this Entry

“Gall.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gall. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

gall

1 of 4 noun
1
b
: something hard to endure
c
2

gall

2 of 4 noun
1
: a skin sore (as on a horse's back) caused by repeated irritation (as from rubbing by a saddle)
2
: a cause or state of aggravation

gall

3 of 4 verb
1
: to make or become sore or worn by rubbing
2
: irritate sense 1, vex
sarcasm galls her

gall

4 of 4 noun
: an abnormal growth of plant tissue usually due to fungi or insect parasites
Etymology

Noun

Old English gealla "bile"

Noun

Old English gealla "skin sore," from Latin galla "plant gall"

Noun

Middle English galle "a swelling on a plant, plant gall," from early French galle (same meaning), from Latin galla "plant gall"

Medical Definition

gall

1 of 4 noun
: bile sense 1
especially : ox gall

gall

2 of 4 noun
: a skin sore caused by chronic irritation

gall

3 of 4 transitive verb
: to rub and wear away by friction : chafe
the loose saddle galled the horse's back

gall

4 of 4 noun
: a swelling of plant tissue usually due to fungi or insect parasites and sometimes forming an important source of tannin

More from Merriam-Webster on gall

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