gris·​ly | \ ˈgriz-lē How to pronounce grisly (audio) \
grislier; grisliest

Definition of grisly

1 : inspiring horror or intense fear houses that were dark and grisly under the blank, cold sky— D. H. Lawrence
2 : inspiring disgust or distaste a grisly account of the fire

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Other Words from grisly

grisliness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for grisly

ghastly, grisly, gruesome, macabre, lurid mean horrifying and repellent in appearance or aspect. ghastly suggests the terrifying aspects of corpses and ghosts. a ghastly accident grisly and gruesome suggest additionally the results of extreme violence or cruelty. an unusually grisly murder suffered a gruesome death macabre implies a morbid preoccupation with the physical aspects of death. a macabre tale of premature burial lurid adds to gruesome the suggestion of shuddering fascination with violent death and especially with murder. the lurid details of a crime

Did You Know?

An angry grizzly bear could certainly inspire fear, so "grizzly" must be a variant of "grisly," right? Yes and no. The adjective "grisly" is indeed sometimes spelled "grizzly," but the "grizzly" in "grizzly bear" is a different animal altogether. Grisly derives from an Old English predecessor, "grislic," which is itself related to an Old English verb meaning "to fear." "Grizzly" comes from the Middle English adjective grisel, meaning "gray." Like its close relative "grizzled," this grizzly means "sprinkled or streaked with gray." In other words, the grizzly got its name because the hairs of its brownish to buff coat usually have silver or pale tips, creating a grizzled effect, not because it causes terror. The misperception that the bear's name reflects its reputed fierceness probably contributed to the development of the "grizzly" variant of "grisly."

Examples of grisly in a Sentence

The jurors saw grisly photos of the crime scene. recounted the visit to the murder scene in grisly detail

Recent Examples on the Web

As retaliation for Marisnick's grisly collision with catcher Jonathan Lucroy on July 7, Ramirez hit the 28-year-old Astros outfielder on the front shoulder with a 1-1 pitch on Tuesday night. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Angels' Noe Ramirez, Brad Ausmus suspended, fined by MLB for hitting Astros' Jake Marisnick," 17 July 2019 Her throat had been slit by the young man, Brandon Clark, who then posted grisly photos of her body on social media before stabbing himself in front of officers who, after a brief struggle, arrested him, the police said. Michael Gold, New York Times, "#RIPBianca: How a Teenager’s Brutal Murder Ended Up on Instagram," 15 July 2019 The author has, for the moment, put away his bag of tricks to stand alone with this grisly chunk of American history. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Colson Whitehead Is One of the Finest Novelists in America," 12 July 2019 But 10 years ago, after his freshman year at Illinois State University, a grisly car accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and a long climb back to any level of normalcy. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "Daywatch: Water meter program halted, Todd Ricketts faces a tax investigation, your guide to Taste of Chicago and other things to know to start your day," 9 July 2019 But the decision to turn a grisly double homicide into a darkly comic musical? Ross Raihala, Twin Cities, "Review: History Theatre’s ‘Glensheen’ is as funny and fascinating as ever," 8 July 2019 The grisly 1933 case involving Jake Silverman enthralled, and later outraged, the public and was extensively covered in the pages of The Morning Oregonian., "Oregon Dems preserve nation’s only non-unanimous juries, wait on Supreme Court decision," 6 July 2019 The group, known for its grisly staging, costuming and theatrics, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lauren Beale,, "Rocker Alice Cooper is among celebs who have called this Beverly Crest spot home," 1 July 2019 Trump will also meet with the Saudi crown prince, who US intelligence services concluded ordered the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident. Jonathan Lemire,, "Trump arrives in Japan for high-stakes meetings at G20 summit," 27 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'grisly.' 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 grisly

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for grisly

Middle English, from Old English grislic, from gris- (akin to Old English āgrīsan to fear); akin to Old High German grīsenlīh terrible

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Gris-Nez, Cape



Statistics for grisly

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for grisly

The first known use of grisly was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for grisly



English Language Learners Definition of grisly

: causing horror or fear : very shocking


gris·​ly | \ ˈgriz-lē How to pronounce grisly (audio) \
grislier; grisliest

Kids Definition of grisly

: horrible sense 1, gruesome a grisly murder

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More from Merriam-Webster on grisly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with grisly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grisly

Spanish Central: Translation of grisly

Nglish: Translation of grisly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of grisly for Arabic Speakers

Comments on grisly

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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