Printable Version
Pronunciation: griz-lee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Gruesome, dreadful, causing horror or terror.

Notes: Today's adjective may be compared: grislier, grisliest, and it has a noun, grisliness. Since the suffix -ly is never doubled, it may be used as an adverb itself. Do not confuse today's word with grizzly, which simply means "gray" or, as our British readers might prefer, grey. Grizzly also refers to a species of large bears that inhabit the northerly climes of North America.

In Play: Grisly applies only to the most horrible of acts. Murders may be grisly, as may other particularly horrifying attacks: "The hungry grizzly bear left a grisly scene in the cabin." Use it metaphorically? Of course, you may: "Lola served a grisly dish consisting of innards stuffed inside innards that took away everyone's appetite for several days." (No, it was even worse than haggis.)

Word History: Today's word is curiously associated with a word that is almost an antonym: Christ. Both words devolved from Proto-Indo-European ghrei- "to rub, smear". Today's word is a reflex of Old English grislic "terrifying" from Germanic gris- "to frighten", probably from the sense of a body smeared with blood. Another relative, grime, is related to the sense of "to smear", which is also probably behind French grimer "to put on makeup", origin of the Russian noun grim "stage makeup." The sense of "smear" is not far from that of "anoint", the meaning of Greek khrein, whose past passive participle is khristos "anointed". This word is often used in translating the New Testament references to Jesus, Greek Khristos "the anointed one".

Dr. Goodword,

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