grisly

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English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

A grisly scene: the remains of the head and limbs of teacher Anselm Hemberger exhumed by the police in Berlin, Germany, in 1920. Hemberger had been shot twice in the head two years earlier by Walter Protze, who had been having an affair with Hemberger’s wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who was Protze’s aunt, had instigated him to commit the murder and had helped to dismember and dispose of the body. During the trial, evidence was led that Hemberger had abused his wife.

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English grisely, grysly, grissliȝ, griselich, grislich, from Old English grisliċ (grisly, horrible; dreadful, horrid), from grīsan (to shudder with horror; to tremble, to be terrified; to make tremble, to terrify; to agrise, grise) (unattested but implied in āgrīsan)[1] + -lic (-ly, suffix forming adjectives meaning ‘characteristic of, pertaining to’). The word may also be an aphetic form of Old English ongrislic, agrisenliċ, the past participle of agrīsan (to agrise).[2] Compare Danish grusom, Middle Dutch grezelijc (modern Dutch griezelig), Middle High German grisenlich (modern German grässlich, grausen).

Adjective[edit]

grisly (comparative grislier, superlative grisliest)

  1. Horrifyingly repellent; gruesome, terrifying.
    The photographs of the killings depict a grisly scene.
    • 1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knightes Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales, [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125; republished as William Thynne, editor, The Woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, Newly Printed, with Diuers Addicions, which were Neuer in Printe before: With the Siege and Destruccion of the Worthy Citee of Thebes, Compiled by Ihon Lidgate, Monke of Berie. As in the Table More Plainly Dooeth Appere, London: Imprinted at London, by Ihon Kyngston, for Ihon Wight, dwellying in Poules Churchyarde, 1561, OCLC 932919585, folio III, verso:
      Whan that Arcite to Thebes comen was / Full ofte a day he ſwelte and ſaid alas / For ſene his lady ſhall be neuer mo / And ſhortely to conclude, all his wo / So mikell ſoro we made neuer creature / That is or ſhalbe, while the world may dure / His ſlepe, his meate, his drinke is him byraft / That leane he waxeth, and drye as a ſhaft / His eyen holow, and griſly to beholde / His hewe pale, and ſalowe as aſhen colde / And ſolitary he was, and euer alone / And wailing all the night, making mone
    • 1592, G[abriel] H[arvey], “[Greene’s Memorial; or Certain Funeral Sonnets.] Sonnet XVII. His Exhortation to Atonement and Love.”, in Fovre Letters, and Certaine Sonnets, Especially Touching Robert Greene, and Other Parties by Him Abused: but Incidently of Diuers Excellent Persons, and Some Matters of Note. To All Courteous Mindes, that will Voutchsafe the Reading, London: Imprinted by Iohn Wolfe, OCLC 84013514; republished as Four Letters, and Certain Sonnets, Especially Touching Robert Greene, and Other Parties by Him Abused: But Incidentally of Divers Excellent Persons, and Some Matters of Note. To All Courteous Minds that will Vouchsafe the Reading, London: From the private press of Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown; printed by T[homas] Davison, Whitefriars, London, [1814], OCLC 220598379, page 64:
      Magnes and many things attractive are, / But nothing so allective under skies, / As that same dainty amiable star, / That none but grisly mouth of hell defies.
    • 1610, Richard Niccols, “The Indvction”, in A Winter Nights Vision; being an Addition of such Princes Especially Famous, who were Exempted in the Former Historie, part IV, London: Felix Kyngston, OCLC 79350736; republished as Joseph Haslewood, editor, Mirror for Magistrates, volume II, part II, London: Printed for Lackington, Allen, and Co. Finsbury Square; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orms, and Brown, Paternoster Row, 1815, OCLC 977145221, page 548:
      Then clad in cloake of mistie fogges the darke night vp did come, / And with grim grislie looke did seeme to bid me get me home; []
    • 1878, John Boyle O'Reilly, “On the Trail”, in Moondyne: A Story from the Under-world, London: George Routledge and Sons, published 1879, OCLC 39983928; republished as Moondyne: A Story of Convict Life in Australia, London: George Routledge & Sons, Limited, Broadway House, Ludgate Hill, [1880s], OCLC 83033698, book first, pages 23–24:
      It was sore travelling for horse and man under the blazing sun, with no food nor water save what he pressed from the pith of the palms, and even these were growing scarce. The only life on the plains was the hard and dusty scrub. Every hour brought a more hopeless and grislier desolation.
    • 1968 summer, Hayden Carruth, “Making It New”, in The Hudson Review, volume XXI, number 2, New York, N.Y.: Hudson Review, Inc., ISSN 2325-5935, OCLC 920393805; reprinted as “From ‘Making It New’ [Body Rags]”, in Howard Nelson, editor, On the Poetry of Galway Kinnell: The Wages of Dying (Under Discussion), Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1987, ISBN 978-0-472-09376-2, page 75:
      In his [Galway Kinnell's] new book, Body Rags, he has brought this style to a kind of perfection, especially in two poems about the killing of animals, "The Porcupine" and "The Bear." These are the grisliest poems I have ever read.
    • 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.
  2. Misspelling of gristly.
  3. Misspelling of grizzly.
Usage notes[edit]

Not to be confused with gristly or grizzly.

Alternative forms[edit]
Synonyms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
Translations[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

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

Adverb[edit]

grisly (comparative more grisly, superlative most grisly)

  1. (obsolete) In a horrible or terrible manner; in a terrifying way.
    • 1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Pardoners Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales, [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125; republished as William Thynne, editor, The Woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, Newly Printed, with Diuers Addicions, which were Neuer in Printe before: With the Siege and Destruccion of the Worthy Citee of Thebes, Compiled by Ihon Lidgate, Monke of Berie. As in the Table More Plainly Dooeth Appere, London: Imprinted at London, by Ihon Kyngston, for Ihon Wight, dwellying in Poules Churchyarde, 1561, OCLC 932919585, folio LXIII, verso, column 2:
      In Flanders whilom there was a company / Of yonge folke, that hau[n]ted foly / As haſard, riot, ſtewes, and tauernes / Where as with harpes, lutes, and geternes / Thei dauncen and plaien at dice night & day / And eten alſo, ouer that her[sic, meaning their] might may / Through which they don the devil ſacrifice / Within the devils temple, in curſed wiſe / By ſuperfluitie abhominable / Her[sic, meaning their] othes ben ſo great and ſo dampnable / That it is griſly for to here hem ſwere
    • 1850, William Tyndale, quoting Thomas More, “[The Solutions and Answers unto M. More’s First Book.] The Sixteenth Chapter”, in Henry Walter, editor, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, The Supper of the Lord after the True Meaning of John VI. and 1 Cor. XI. and Wm. Tracy’s Testament Expounded. By William Tyndale, Martyr, 1536. Edited for the Parker Society, by the Rev. Henry Walter, B.D. F.R.S. [...], Cambridge: Printed at the University Press, OCLC 868759675, page 90, footnote:
      [A] very fair young gentlewoman [Sir Roger Wentworth's daughter], of twelve years of age, in marvellous manner vexed and tormented by our ghostly enemy, the devil, her mind alienated and raving, with despising and blaspheming of God, and hatred of all hallowed things, [] finally being brought and laid before the image of our blessed lady, was there, in the sight of many worshipful people, so grievously tormented, and in face, eyes, look, and countenance, so grisly changed, with her mouth drawn aside, and her eyes laid out upon her cheeks, that it was a terrible sight to behold. And after many marvellous things, [] restored to their good state, perfectly cured and suddenly.
    • 1870, George Adlard, “A Letter: Whearin Part of the Entertainment unto the Queen’s Majesty at Killingworth Castl in Warwiksheer in this Somers Progress—1575 is Signified: From a Freend Officer Attendant in the Court unto His Freend a Citizen and Merchaunt of London. [...] With Explanatory Notes.”, in Amye Robsart and the Earl of Leycester; a Critical Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Various Statements in Relation to the Death of Amye Robsart, and of the Libels on the Earl of Leycester, with a Vindication of the Earl by His Nephew Sir Philip Sydney. And a History of Kenilworth Castle, including an Account of the Splendid Entertainment Given to Queen Elizabeth by the Earl of Leycester, in 1575, from the Works of Robert Laneham and George Gascoigne; together with Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir Robert Dudley, Son of the Earl of Leycester, London: John Russell Smith, 36 Soho Square, OCLC 890583907, page 142:
      A valiant Captain of great prowess, as fierce as a fox assaulting a goose, was so hardy to give the first stroke: then got they so grisly together, that great was the activity that day to be seen there on both sides: the one very eager for purchase of prey, the other utterly stout for redemption of liberty: thus, quarrel enflamed the fury on both sides: twice the Danes had the better, but at the last conflict, beaten down, overcome, and many led captive for triumph by our English women.
Synonyms[edit]

References[edit]

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