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 The grisly scene came to light after three people who had been injured in the rituals made their way to a local clinic over the weekend for treatment, and told authorities more people were being held at the improvised church compound. Greg Norman | Fox News, Fox News, "7 bodies found in Panama burial pit as religious sect accused of carrying out exorcism rituals," 17 Jan. 2020 Horrendous situation led to founding Angels on Patrol was inspired by a grisly scene Jacqui MacConnell encountered 16 years ago as a Phoenix police sergeant. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "When police officers need quick help for people in distress, this Phoenix charity answers the call," 24 Nov. 2019 There, police looking through windows saw a bleeding Dominguez and attempted to force their way into the home before a man inside unlocked the door, opening up to the grisly scene. Nicholas Rondinone,, "In newly released court records, Cheshire woman tells police ‘He tried to kill me’ after Mountain Road stabbing," 16 Sep. 2019 His grisly serial killings of seven European and Australian backpackers horrified Australia in the early ’90s. Bernard Mcghee, Twin Cities, "Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in 2019," 29 Dec. 2019 This year, however, voters seem to have tired of grisly killings, real-life cold cases and unsolved mysteries. Adam Benzine, The Hollywood Reporter, "Emmys: Have Voters Fallen Off the True-Crime Doc Wagon?," 8 Aug. 2019 On Monday, the authoritarian kingdom of Saudi Arabia sentenced five operatives to death for the grisly murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in October, 2018. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "The Saudi Sentences in Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder Case Are a Mockery of Justice," 23 Dec. 2019 Jurors on Thursday heard grisly details about the disturbance in a video interview, The Virginian-Pilot reported. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Closing arguments up next in deadly prison breakout trial," 18 Oct. 2019 In Mexico, a vast array of skulls buried beneath the streets of modern Mexico City are shedding light on the grisly details of Aztec human sacrifice. Fox News, "'Skeleton Lake' mystery deepens with strange DNA discovery," 23 Aug. 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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The first known use of grisly was in the 12th century

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Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Grisly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for grisly


How to pronounce grisly (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grisly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with grisly

Spanish Central: Translation of grisly

Nglish: Translation of grisly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of grisly for Arabic Speakers

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