Printable Version
Pronunciation: græw-lêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone who or something that growls. 2. A small iceberg, chunk of ice broken off from an iceberg. 3. (Slang) A four-wheel carriage. 4. A take-home bucket or jug for beer.

Notes: growlerToday's word is the personal noun for the verb growl. Most of its other meanings originate from the first. A small iceberg growls as it slides along the side of a ship. A four-wheel carriage makes a growling ruckus. The question remains, how did the word come to refer to a beer bucket?

In Play: Britain and Australia have an idiom, now rather dated, 'to rush the growler', meaning "to fetch a bucket of beer", hence "to tie one on." A growler today may even be a big bottle holding from 32 to 64 ounces of beer. "Bud Light can put down a growler of beer by himself, but it takes two growlers to put old Bud down."

Word History: There are two questions that arise over the semantics of today's Good Word: (1) how did a bucket come to be called 'a growler' and (2) how did the meaning shift from "bucket" to "jug"? growlerWell, we have at least two answers for the first question. The first is that the lid of the bucket when taken home would growl from gases escaping from the beer. The second is that the name came from the noise the bucket made when slid down the bar. Whichever speculation you believe, growl was grollen in Middle English, from Old French grouler "grumble, scold". French borrowed its word from some Germanic language, like German or Dutch grollen "to rumble, grunt". The trail quickly darkens at this point. Since a beer bucket is a container for bringing home the beer, it is easy to see how it could be transferred to a jug. (Today's gratitude is due our long-time constant contributor Sue Gold of Westtown School, West Chester, Pennsylvania, for seeing the gold in today's polysemantic Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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