gall

1 of 4

noun (1)

1
: brazen boldness coupled with impudent assurance and insolence
had the gall to think that he could replace her
2
a
: bile
especially : bile obtained from an animal and used in the arts or medicine
b
: something bitter to endure
c
: bitterness of spirit : rancor

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

Example Sentences

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

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 2a

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 29 Jan. 2023.

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

Medical Definition

gall

1 of 4 noun
: bile
especially : bile obtained from an animal and used in the arts or medicine

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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