gris·ly | \ ˈgriz-lē \
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

In each case, officers turn up in environmental suits and masks, sorting through the grisly discoveries, from pill bottles to notepads and photos left behind, hoping to piece together the lives of people like Unger who ended up in the parking lots. J.d. Gallop,, "Nearly half a dozen people have died in Walmart parking lots in Brevard County since 2015," 24 June 2018 Last week, when a body was found in a Pennsylvania creek across the street from his home, Matthew Haverly went outside to speak to the local news crews who were there to cover the grisly discovery. Chris Harris,, "After Allegedly Beating Mom to Death, Man Gave TV Interview Claiming It Was 'Some Kind of a Hit'," 11 June 2018 What started as a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight in Springfield, Massachusetts, has escalated into a succession of grisly discoveries that have shaken the blue-collar city. NBC News, "3 bodies found at home of Massachusetts man accused of kidnapping, torture," 1 June 2018 Using testimony from police detectives, medical experts, grieving relatives and Mikayla — who is now 11 — prosecutors presented the jury with the grisly story. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Killer Sentenced to Maximum Term for Elevator Stabbing Death of 6-Year-Old," 22 May 2018 The grisly story of what Chante Jawan Mallard did to Gregory Glenn Biggs 15 years ago in Fort Worth, Texas, has been the inspiration for several true-crime dramatizations. Steve Helling,, "The Texas Woman Who Hit a Homeless Man and Left Him to Die in Her Windshield, 15 Years Later," 12 Mar. 2018 This month marks the one-year anniversary of the grisly Bucks County murders of four young men that gripped the nation and a search that ultimately led to Cosmo DiNardo and his parents’ Solebury Township farm. Oona Goodin-smith,, "Families of Cosmo DiNardo murder victims speak out, Pa. to pay $2M to fight teacher shortage | Morning Newsletter," 13 July 2018 The federal government has reopened the murder case of Emmett Till, a black teen whose grisly murder more than 60 years ago after being accused of whistling at a white woman shocked the nation and helped prompt the civil rights movement. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "Justice Dept. reopens Emmett Till murder case that helped inspire civil rights movement," 12 July 2018 Early in the film, Annie’s daughter Charlie dies in a grisly freak accident: As her brother Peter drives her to the hospital to treat an allergic reaction, Charlie sticks her head out the window for air, only to be decapitated by a telephone pole. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near grisly





Gris-Nez, Cape



Statistics for grisly

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

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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 \
grislier; grisliest

Kids Definition of grisly

: horrible sense 1, gruesome a grisly murder

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an open space surrounded by woods

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