gnarlier; gnarliest
: gnarled
gnarly branches
slang : very bad: such as
: very difficult or challenging to deal with
a gnarly [=thorny, knotty] problem
gnarly conditions
Having … skidded around gnarly hairpin turns … , the two bikers pedaled furiously for the finish.Austin Murphy
: nasty, unpleasant
"This guy has some pretty gnarly karma coming …"Drew Barrymore
: arousing disgust or distaste : gross
A cute toe polish can't save gnarly, callused soles.Jessica R. White
" … It'll be kind of a gruesome death. You know, its fur will start falling out, it'll develop gnarly sores all over its body. … "David Randall
slang : cool, excellent
After initially wiping out on the left wave, [Filipe] Toledo responded with a gnarly air reverse on the right and was rewarded with a 9.27.Hanford Sentinel
especially : having a pleasingly or impressively rugged or rough quality
He played in the NFL, but then got bored with football and became a FBI agent. He was a gnarly dude. Reece Kelley Graham
And yet [Mark] Knopfler built a reputation as an intensely creative virtuoso (not to mention an ace songwriter), showing remarkable command over a range of tones and textures—from the gnarly distortion on hit single "Money for Nothing" to the stinging precision of "Tunnel of Love." Rolling Stone

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Goodbyes can be gnarly, but even the Goldbergs have to let go. Edward Segarra, USA TODAY, 24 Feb. 2023 Wrapped in a hazmat suit, she's led to the corpse of a middle-aged woman with a gnarly bite on her left leg. Randall Colburn,, 23 Jan. 2023 Scab is largely cosmetic (a gnarly skin) but doesn’t keep you from peeling and eating the apple. oregonlive, 25 Feb. 2023 But the bear is more underdog than serial killer in general – honestly, there’s a lot of gnarly horror that’s not really her fault. Brian Truitt, The Courier-Journal, 24 Feb. 2023 But the bear is more underdog than serial killer in general – honestly, there’s a lot of gnarly horror that’s not really her fault. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 24 Feb. 2023 Where there’s food, there will be food poisoning, and one incident—involving Ron and some gnarly sea urchin—gives Marino an opportunity to display his knack for frantically flopping about like a fish just yanked from water. Inkoo Kang, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2023 But wearing new shoes that aren't the most comfortable yet for *too* long might give you some pretty gnarly blisters at first. Hannah Oh, Seventeen, 22 Feb. 2023 Zayn had a gnarly looking cut on his stomach late into the match. Alfred Konuwa, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gnarly.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


see gnarled

First Known Use

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gnarly was in 1760

Dictionary Entries Near gnarly

Cite this Entry

“Gnarly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Mar. 2023.

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