gru·​el | \ ˈgrü-əl How to pronounce gruel (audio) \

Definition of gruel

1 : a thin porridge
2 [from to get one's gruel to accept punishment] chiefly British : punishment
3 : something that lacks substance or significance the argument was thin gruel

Examples of gruel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That’s pretty thin gruel compared with the Nasdaq initiative, suggesting that the exchange may have to fall into line now that Nasdaq has set the pace. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Nasdaq steps into 21st century by requiring women and minorities on corporate boards," 1 Dec. 2020 Guards beat and sometimes killed their captives, who lived on a rice gruel that occasionally included bits of fish. Sig Christenson,, "American POW’s family, waiting in San Antonio, had no idea how dark his days would get," 25 May 2020 The plate also serves as a lid for the bowl, with a double gasket that will keep your gruel from slopping out into a pack. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "The Best New Camping Gear of the Year," 7 Apr. 2020 There’s something concerning, but also weirdly resilient, about finding nourishment in gruel so thin. Gene Park, Washington Post, "The most influential games of the decade," 19 Dec. 2019 Meals are gruel, which the nurses cart around in large enamel pails. Robert Gottlieb, New York Times, "Emmanuel Carrère’s Disconcertingly Personal and Utterly Gripping Prose," 12 Dec. 2019 In one of the vessels, the types of fatty acids present, and their carbon-13 ratios, suggest that someone had mixed either human breast milk or a thin gruel made from pig fat with the livestock milk. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Ancient sippy cup may hold clues about agriculture’s spread in Europe," 2 Oct. 2019 Unlike May, who was fiscally cautious, Johnson is promising voters both tax cuts and higher public spending, which gives the campaign the feel of competing Christmas lists, after years of gruel. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "Can Jeremy Corbyn Lose the British Election and Still Win?," 26 Nov. 2019 In that year’s manifesto, aside from Brexit the Conservatives offered only a thin gruel of punishing reforms of things like social care and little in the way of extra spending. The Economist, "The Tories target health and crime in a political Queen’s Speech," 19 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gruel.' 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 gruel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gruel

Middle English grewel, from Anglo-French gruel, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English grūt grout

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Time Traveler for gruel

Time Traveler

The first known use of gruel was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Gruel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for gruel



English Language Learners Definition of gruel

: a thin food made by boiling oatmeal or some other grain in water or milk


gru·​el | \ ˈgrü-əl How to pronounce gruel (audio) \

Kids Definition of gruel

: a thin porridge

More from Merriam-Webster on gruel

Britannica English: Translation of gruel for Arabic Speakers

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