Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Did Agley Go Awry Today?

After reading today’s Good Word agley, Doug Schulek-Miller wanted to know how this word differs from awry.

There isn’t much difference at all. You can say that someone’s hat is agley or awry or that their plans went either way. However, you can also say that someone looks agley at you (= askance) since the underlying verb here is gley “squint, look sideways” while you cannot use “awry” in this sense. I didn’t mention this usage in today’s Good Word so that my description of agley didn’t go agley.

Perhaps the greatest difference is that you can say awry outside Scotland and be understood.

2 Responses to “Did Agley Go Awry Today?”

  1. Mr Pipes Says:

    Was this word ever pronounced a-glee, as in glee club? Seems like I’ve seen it spelled and hear it pronounced so: that’s the way I’ve done it for almost fifty year now.
    Just checked “Immortal Poems….” (Oscar Williams) and it _is_ agley. My agley _has_ gone awry.

  2. Wayland Stallard Says:

    Is the word askant derived from the pronounciation of the more descriptive, not to mention prettier word, asquint?

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