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 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 To signal that Zhou loved the people, he is shown working late while his aides fret about his health, and refusing a bowl of gruel because there are Chinese without enough to eat. The Economist, "Some thank Zhou Enlai for saving China from Mao’s excesses," 24 Oct. 2019 But even allowing for the erosion of standards, this is thin gruel for both news reporting and legal claims. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Why It’s Unlikely the McCabe Grand Jury Voted against Indictment," 14 Sep. 2019 That’s kind of thin gruel, especially for the unions that showed up to support the bill: Service Employees International Union 32BJ, New York State Nurses (NYSNA), the Teamsters, and others. David Roberts, Vox, "New York just passed the most ambitious climate target in the country," 20 June 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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Statistics for gruel

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gruel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for gruel


How to pronounce gruel (audio)

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gruel

Britannica English: Translation of gruel for Arabic Speakers

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