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Etymology 1[edit]

From late Old English grisliċ, from *grísan (to shudder with horror; to tremble, to be terrified; to make tremble, to terrify; to agrise, grise) (unattested but implied in á-grísan)[1] + -lic (-ly, suffix forming adjectives meaning ‘characteristic of, pertaining to’). The word may also be an aphetic form of Old English ongrislic, *ongrisenlic, the past participle of *ongrísan (to agrise).[2] Compare Danish grusom, Middle Dutch grezelijc (modern Dutch grijzelijk), Middle High German grisenlich (modern German grässlich, grausen).


grisly (comparative grislier, superlative grisliest)

  1. Horrifyingly repellent; gruesome, terrifying.
    The photographs of the killings depict a grisly scene.
    • 2017 January 19, Peter Bradshaw, “T2 Trainspotting review – choose a sequel that doesn’t disappoint”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 20 January 2017:
      Perhaps you have to have seen the first film to like this one; to feel, like the young fans of Harry Potter, that without knowing or wanting it, you have grown up with its grisly protagonists.
Usage notes[edit]

Not to be confused with gristly or grizzly.


Etymology 2[edit]

From grisle (horror, terror) +‎ -ly; compare Middle Dutch griselike, Middle Low German grislike.


grisly (comparative more grisly, superlative most grisly)

  1. (obsolete) In a horrible or terrible manner; in a terrifying way.


  1. ^ grise, v.”, in OED Online, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1900.
  2. ^ grisly, adj.”, in OED Online, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1900.