\ ˈnär-lē How to pronounce gnarly (audio) \
gnarlier; gnarliest

Definition of gnarly

1 : gnarled gnarly branches
2 slang : very bad: such as
a : 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
b : nasty, unpleasant "This guy has some pretty gnarly karma coming …"— Drew Barrymore
c : 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
3 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

Examples of gnarly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Take turns discovering something new each time, like spotting gnarly branches, woodpecker holes, wildlife, and other wonders kids can’t see when trees are green. Maryellen Kennedy Duckett, National Geographic, "Kids need holiday traditions—no matter how untraditional this year is," 18 Nov. 2020 Soprano Kimberly Jones similarly addressed gnarly Handelian lines with considerable elegance and almost as much tonal radiance as St. Peter. Howard Reich,, "Review: Haymarket Opera launches 10th season on film with ‘Acis and Galatea’," 31 Oct. 2020 General Motors subsidiary Cruise, the other company that’s furthest along in self-driving, has long touted the benefits of testing amid its hometown’s gnarly traffic. Carolyn Said,, "Yes, you’re seeing more robot cars in San Francisco. Here’s why self-driving is picking up speed," 24 Oct. 2020 All the gnarly bits have been removed, including the brain, because CBD Provisions has yet to discover the perfect use for a pig’s dream factory. Nick Rallo, Dallas News, "Dallas chefs embrace snout-to-tail cooking with pig head carnitas, menudo and more," 20 Oct. 2020 The gnarly, off-road tires — Goodyear Wranglers — clawed the earth. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Rugged meets refined in Land Rover’s remade Defender (review)," 10 Oct. 2020 Bucs kicker Ryan Succop's 54-yard attempt with his arm — leaving a gnarly bruise on his biceps — only Hunt's teammates cheered, and the loudest noise in the building came from the goalpost nets, squeaking like bats on their way back down. Amie Just | Staff Writer,, "Defense shines, offensive play calling 'awful,' as Saints top Buccaneers in near-silent Superdome," 13 Sep. 2020 The fig tree is now reduced to two gnarly branches with roughly six leaves each reaching towards the window. Steve Bender, Southern Living, "Off With Its Head! How I Fixed My Fiddleleaf Fig," 4 Aug. 2020 When anglers are already either off the water or involved in the gnarly tangle of salmon and steelhead seasons? oregonlive, "Bill Monroe: Oregon, Washington in standoff over sturgeon fishing in Columbia River estuary," 13 June 2020

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.

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First Known Use of gnarly

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gnarly

see gnarled

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Time Traveler for gnarly

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The first known use of gnarly was in 1760

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Statistics for gnarly

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gnarly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for gnarly


How to pronounce gnarly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gnarly

: very difficult or bad
: very good


\ ˈnär-lē How to pronounce gnarly (audio) \
gnarlier; gnarliest

Kids Definition of gnarly

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gnarly

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