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

Examples of gnarly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In some cases, this can cause Lyme disease, a syndrome with uncomfortable, gnarly, and sometimes debilitating symptoms that can affect the body in wide-ranging ways. Julia Sullivan, SELF, 6 May 2024 Nannies lead their kids up gnarly slopes, seeking places that predators fear to tread. Lesley Evans Ogden, New York Times, 1 May 2024 Reversing a gnarly trend The signs seemed clear — and ugly. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Apr. 2024 What are the gnarly ethics of eating demi-human creatures? Margaret Lyons, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 Every year another branch or two will die until you’re left with gnarly, unattractive plants with no form. Neil Sperry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5 Apr. 2024 Although there is plenty of the gnarly gore that was a trademark of the original series, which premiered in 2010, the new spinoff’s main focus is the more intimate romance between Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the fierce warrior Michonne (Danai Gurira). Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times, 14 Mar. 2024 It’s been nearly two years since major cities in the Northeast have seen major snowfall (except for the Christmas Buffalo blizzard of 2022), but with a gnarly storm headed for the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast this weekend, that could soon change. Kinsey Crowley, USA TODAY, 14 Jan. 2024 Red Eye moves like a bullet, jumping from disaster movie to psychological two-hander to blazing action and eventually a pretty gnarly stalker-in-the-house sequence. Declan Gallagher,, 11 Jan. 2024

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

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 17 May. 2024.

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