What It Means
chiefly British : lacking intelligence : stupid
"It would be difficult to think of many things more gormless than driving a car while blindfolded…." — Fergus Kelly, The Express, 16 Jan. 2019
"On screen, Laurel played gormless underling to Hardy's finicky little king. Off screen, though, the roles were reversed. Laurel co-directed the pictures and devised the bulk of the gags." — Xan Brooks, The Guardian, 4 Jan. 2019
Did You Know?
Gormless began life as the English dialect word gaumless, which was altered to the modern spelling when it expanded into wider use in the late 19th century. The origins of gaumless are easy to understand; the word derives from a combination of the dialect noun gaum, meaning "attention" or "understanding," and the suffix -less. This gaum has a related verb, also limited to dialect use, meaning "to pay attention to" and "to understand." Perhaps surprisingly, the four-letter gaum has multiple additional dialectal uses that are etymologically unrelated to these. Also noun-and-verb pairs, gaum means "a sticky or greasy mess" and "to smudge or smear especially with something sticky or greasy," as well as "a stupid doltish person" and "to behave in a stupid or awkward manner." Use of all of these pales in comparison to that of gormless, however, which is most frequently seen in British English.
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