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 deeply satisfying, absolutely grisly action fantasy is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Eric Webb, Detroit Free Press, "If you’re a ‘Mortal Kombat’ fan, get over here," 23 Apr. 2021 Some of them were involved in grisly attacks against law enforcement. Marshall Cohen, CNN, "100 days after US Capitol insurrection, massive federal inquiry sees progress and roadblocks," 16 Apr. 2021 Floyd’s grisly death sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the country and world. Donna Owens, Essence, "Families of George Floyd, Daunte Wright Hold Emotional Press Conference in Minneapolis," 13 Apr. 2021 When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspect murder and employ their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Selena Gomez Is Handcuffed and Covered in Fake Blood on the Set of Her New Show," 12 Apr. 2021 The proceedings are the first opportunity many laypeople have had to watch a murder trial from gavel to gavel, with all its grisly evidence, legal jargon, and esoteric codes of conduct. Susan Du, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys offer legal takes, healing spaces during Chauvin trial," 7 Apr. 2021 The list of high-profile Putin critics and former Kremlin insiders, spies and power brokers who are the victims of unsolved murders, grisly poisonings, suspicious deaths, as well as lighter forms of persecution and ill-treatment, is long. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "Russia recalls its ambassador to the US after Biden says he thinks Putin is a killer," 18 Mar. 2021 Rather than focusing on the grisly crime, however, The Investigation follows the chief detective, Jens Møller Jensen (Søren Malling), as well as the prosecutors and team of investigators and divers who worked to bring justice to the Wall family. Ashley Chervinski,, "HBO’s The Investigation Explores A Devastating True Story," 2 Feb. 2021 Instead of grisly battle scenes, Layton’s intaglios feature whimsical images of flowers such as magnolias and daisies. Lia Picard, House Beautiful, "The Young Creative Making an Ancient Roman Design Cool Again," 2 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for grisly

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

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Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Grisly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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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Comments on grisly

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