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From Middle English gristel, grystyl, from Old English gristel (gristle, cartilage), formed from a diminutive of Old English grist (a grinding), from Proto-Germanic *gredaną (to crunch), equivalent to grist +‎ -le. Cognate with Old Frisian gristel, gerstel (gristle, cartilage), Middle Low German gristel (gristle).



gristle (countable and uncountable, plural gristles)

  1. Cartilage; now especially: cartilage present, as a tough substance, in meat.
  2. (figuratively, from obsolete scientific theory) Bone not yet hardened by age and hard work.
    • 1849, Herman Melville, Redburn. His First Voyage,
      And it is a hard and cruel thing thus in early youth to taste beforehand the pangs which should be reserved for the stout time of manhood, when the gristle has become bone, and we stand up and fight out our lives, as a thing tried before and foreseen; for then we are veterans used to sieges and battles, and not green recruits, recoiling at the first shock of the encounter.
    • 1859, George Eliot, Adam Bede,
      Look at Adam through the rest of the day, as he stands on the scaffolding with the two-feet ruler in his hand, whistling low while he considers how a difficulty about a floor-joist or a window-frame is to be overcome; or as he pushes one of the younger workmen aside and takes his place in upheaving a weight of timber, saying, "Let alone, lad! Thee'st got too much gristle i' thy bones yet"; or as he fixes his keen black eyes on the motions of a workman on the other side of the room and warns him that his distances are not right.
    • 1885, Ada Sarah Ballin, The Science of Dress in Theory and Practice,
      It. must be borne in mind that the bones of a young infant are little more than gristle, and are liable to bend, and so become deformed.
    • 1896, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rodney Stone,
      "The young 'un will make his way," said Belcher, who had come across to us. "He's more a sparrer than a fighter just at present, but when his gristle sets he'll take on anything on the list.

Derived terms[edit]



  • gristle in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.