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

Definition of gnarly

1 : gnarled gnarly branches

2 slang

a : difficult, hairy skidded around gnarly hairpin turns— Austin Murphy
b : bad, nasty has some pretty gnarly karma coming— Drew Barrymore
c : cool, good some gnarly guitar playing

Examples of gnarly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The gardens created by businessman Arnold D. Haskell in 1966 cover a city block and are divided into manageable chunks, such as a succulent and cactus garden shaded by a giant gnarly pepper tree and a humid conservatory of tropical plants. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, "Four Hours in Corona del Mar, where it’s already Halloween," 30 Aug. 2019 The shift into the more gnarly thriller territory of the sinister Yates and his goons becomes formulaic, its derivative neo-noir nastiness not helped by distinguished stage veteran Cullum being so miscast. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Jungleland': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 7 Sep. 2019 And then tune into AMC on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT to learn what other gnarly treats await. Dalton Ross,, "Watch an awesome Fear the Walking Dead zombie decapitation," 23 Aug. 2019 Rihanna, likely recovering from a gnarly hangover thanks to Seth Meyers, got her second wind at the BET Awards on Sunday night. Kathryn Lindsay,, "No One Had A Better BET Awards Show Than Rihanna," 24 June 2019 Meanwhile, Max’s pals in the city tangle with some gnarly cats. Katie Walsh, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Dogs and cats stick to the formula in ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’," 6 June 2019 Meanwhile, Max's pals in the city tangle with some gnarly cats. Katie Walsh,, "Review: Dogs and cats stick to the formula in ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’," 5 June 2019 The gnarly Ed was supposed to be a silent sight-gag character. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "'The Lion King' turns 25: Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin showed teeth as hilarious hyenas," 23 Nov. 2018 The standard Ranger 4x4's 8.9 inches of ground clearance matches that of the gnarly ZR2's. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "I'm Not Sure We Need a Ford Ranger Raptor," 13 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of gnarly

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gnarly

see gnarled

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gnarly

Dictionary Entries near gnarly






gnash one's teeth


Statistics for gnarly

Last Updated

15 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gnarly

The first known use of gnarly was in 1773

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gnarly



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

More from Merriam-Webster on gnarly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gnarly

Comments on gnarly

What made you want to look up gnarly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!