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Coined by American author and aeronautical engineer Robert A. Heinlein in 1961 in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein invented the word for his fictitious Martian language. It is described as meaning “to drink” and, figuratively, “to drink in all available aspects of reality”, “to become one with the observed”. William Tenn later asked Heinlein if it could have been inspired by the term griggo, which featured in Tenn's 1949 Venus and the Seven Sexes; Heinlein “looked startled, then thought about it for a long time (and) shrugged, (saying) ‘It's possible, very possible.’”[1]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈɡɹɒk/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈɡɹɑk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒk


grok (third-person singular simple present groks, present participle grokking or groking, simple past and past participle grokked or groked)

  1. (transitive, slang) To understand (something) intuitively, to know (something) without having to think intellectually.
    Troponym: subitize
    • 1961, Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, New York: Avon, →OCLC, page 106:
      I do not grok all fullness of what I read. In the history written by Master William Shakespeare I found myself full of happiness at the death of Romeo. Then I read on and learned that he had discorporated too soon – or so I thought I grokked. Why?
    • 1968, Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, →ISBN:
      Grok―and then it's clear, without anybody having to say it.
    • [2008 December, Leslie Anthony, “Running from Babylon”, in Skiing, volume 61, number 4, page 116:
      He freely plucks notions and verbiage from science fiction to describe everything from mountain-related undertakings to political subterfuge – like "grok", a term from Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, to denote intuitive understanding.]
    • 2018 August 2, Kara Swisher, “The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley”, in New York Times[1]:
      Because what he never managed to grok then was that the company he created was destined to become a template for all of humanity, the digital reflection of masses of people across the globe. Including — and especially — the bad ones.
  2. (transitive, slang) To fully and completely understand something in all of its details and intricacies.
    I finally grok Perl.
    I find it exceedingly doubtful that any person groks quantum mechanics.
    • 2008 August, Stanley Bing, “New Help for Hodads”, in Fortune, volume 158, number 3, page 152:
      Today we take a few moments to help you grok some of the ways that victims of TU can up their hipness – if we may use that term without being considered old school.

Usage notes[edit]

Grok is used mainly by the geek subculture, though it was heavily used by the counterculture of the 1960s, as evidenced by its repeated appearance in Tom Wolfe's “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ Afterword to "Venus and the Seven Sexes", as published in Immodest Proposals: the Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn (page 153), published 2001 by NESFA Press

Further reading[edit]