adjective gris·ly \ ˈgriz-lē \
|Updated on: 7 Jul 2018

Definition of grisly

grislier; grisliest
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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Examples of grisly in a Sentence

  1. The jurors saw grisly photos of the crime scene.

  2. recounted the visit to the murder scene in grisly detail

Recent Examples of grisly from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of grisly

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

GRISLY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of grisly for English Language Learners

  • : causing horror or fear : very shocking

GRISLY Defined for Kids


adjective gris·ly \ ˈgriz-lē \

Definition of grisly for Students

grislier; grisliest
: horrible 1, gruesome
  • a grisly murder

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peaceful, happy, or prosperous

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