griz·​zly ˈgriz-lē How to pronounce grizzly (audio)
grizzlier; grizzliest

Frequently Asked Questions

Is grizzly a noun or an adjective?

Grizzly is both a noun and an adjective. The adjective, meaning "grizzled; sprinkled or streaked with gray," came first. In the early 19th century grizzly also began to be used as a noun, a shortened form of grizzly bear (which was so named because of the animal's grayish fur).

What is the difference between grizzly and grisly?

Grizzly bears are large and ferocious carnivores, and so it is not at all surprising that many people would assume that the initial portion of their name should be interchangeable with grisly. However, grizzly and grisly are not at all synonymous. Grizzly means "sprinkled or streaked with gray," and grisly means "inspiring horror or intense fear" or "inspiring disgust or distaste."

"Are grizzly and grisly from the same root?"

Although these two words are spelled in similar fashion and are often confused, they do not share a root. The word grizzly derives from the Middle English grisel¸ which means "gray" and comes from the Anglo-French gris, describing the same color. Grisly, on the other hand, comes from the Old English grislic, related to an Old English verb meaning "to fear."

Examples of grizzly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The bodies themselves, along with the artifacts found among them, are a grizzly insight into life during wartime. Christopher Parker, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Aug. 2023 The pursuit would not only divert him from his PhD work on grizzly reproduction and survival but would lead him to press for public policy changes. Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, 19 Jan. 2023 The groups are also concerned by a lack of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, another one of the six recovery zones that is mostly located in eastern Idaho but covers a small sliver of southwestern Montana. Katie Hill, Outdoor Life, 23 Jan. 2023 An hour later, the rising sun illuminated a grizzly scene. John H. Tucker, Popular Mechanics, 10 Nov. 2022 As the grizzly nature of past Russian atrocities is uncovered and as Ukrainian losses mount during what’s expected to be heavy fighting in the Donbas, the political pressure for the West to do more is likely to grow. Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022 Shop the style in black, cognac, or grizzly leather. Kristi Kellogg, Condé Nast Traveler, 16 Feb. 2022 Scientists had thought the gene started in grizzly bears and was transferred to black bears. Lee Roop |, al, 20 Dec. 2022 Graceful geysers, grizzly bears – there’s no shortage of adventure in Yellowstone National Park, which turned 150 this year. Sarah Matusek, The Christian Science Monitor, 19 Oct. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'grizzly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of grizzly was in 1594

Dictionary Entries Near grizzly

Cite this Entry

“Grizzly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
grizzlier; grizzliest


2 of 2 noun
plural grizzlies
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