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From Middle English groulen, grollen, gurlen (of the bowels: to growl, rumble), either possibly from Old French groler (variant of croler (to be agitated, shake)), grouler, grouller (to growl, grumble),[1] from Frankish *grullen, *gruljan or from Old English gryllan, both from Proto-Germanic *gruljaną (to make a sound; to growl, grumble, rumble), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰer- (to make a noise; to mumble, murmur; to rattle; to grind; to rub, stroke), probably ultimately imitative. The word is cognate with Middle Dutch grollen (to make a noise; to croak, grumble, murmur; to be angry) (modern Dutch grollen (to grumble)), German grollen (to rumble; to be angry, bear ill will), Old English grillan, griellan (to provoke, offend; to gnash the teeth). Compare grill.

The noun is derived from the verb.[2]



growl (plural growls)

  1. A deep, rumbling, threatening sound made in the throat by an animal.
    • 1857 June, S. H. L., “Growl”, in E. F. Blake et al., editors, The Yale Literary Magazine: [], volume XXII, number VII, New Haven, Conn.: Published by Thomas H. Pease; printed by T. J. Stafford, →OCLC, page 287:
      Hardly anything is more intensely disagreeable to one walking along the street, than to hear near his path a low savage growl—the expression of a surly dog's opinion and purpose.
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 282:
      A deep growl was the answer I received, and the bear, for such it was, walked quickly away in the same direction whence he had come.
  2. (by extension) A similar sound made by a human.
  3. (by extension) The rumbling sound made by a human's hungry stomach.
    • 2004, Rique Johnson, chapter 2, in Whispers from a Troubled Heart, Largo, Md.: Strebor Books, →ISBN, page 21:
      Riding down the main thoroughfare, the growl of his stomach taints the soothing jazz playing on the radio.
  4. (by extension) An aggressive grumbling.
    • 1843 December 19, Charles Dickens, “Stave I. Marley’s Ghost.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, [], →OCLC, page 18:
      The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's-buff.
    • 1864 July, Robert M. Anderson, “Over the Plains”, in The Dollar Monthly Magazine, volume XX, number 1 (number 115 overall), Boston, Mass.: Office American Union, Flag of Our Union, and Novelette [], →OCLC, page 44, column 1:
      The Welsh farmer, strong, broad-shouldered and blue-eyed, acknowledged Willie's presence by an unintelligible ejaculation which sounded very much like a growl, and with not very cheerful hospitality pushed a chair towards him. [] [T]he farmer swallowed his broth in huge spoonfuls, alternating with growls, []
    • 2014, Billy Idol, “Sucking in the ’70s”, in Dancing with Myself, New York, N.Y.: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, →ISBN, part I (London), page 44:
      One of the shows we saw was Captain Beefheart at the Finsbury Park Astoria, now the Rainbow Theatre. It was one of my all-time favorite shows, the Captain an outrageous character who defied all bounds of middle-class taste with his Delta-blues growl and made-up language.
  5. (jazz, by extension) A low-pitched rumbling sound produced with a wind instrument.
    • 2013, Stephen Feinstein, quoting John Chilton, “Duke Ellington”, in Incredible African-American Jazz Musicians, Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, →ISBN, page 28:
      The growl effect comes from fitting a small straight mute—a cornet mute for trumpet and a trumpet mute for trombone—covering the instrument's bell with a rubber plunger, the kind used by plumbers, and moving it in and out to affect the tone.
    • 2014, Bill Dobbins, “Duke Ellington and the World of Jazz Piano”, in Edward Green, Evan Spring, editors, The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington (African-American Collective Biographies), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 197:
      Just as [Duke] Ellington the composer was not the originator of the growls, moans, and other expressive devices that jazz musicians developed from European instruments, neither was he the particular techniques he used at the piano. It was the wealth of possibilities he uncovered for combining, simplifying, expanding, or even distorting the common jazz piano vocabulary of the day that put Ellington in a class by himself.
  6. (by extension) Death growl

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]


growl (third-person singular simple present growls, present participle growling, simple past and past participle growled)

  1. (intransitive) To utter a deep guttural sound, as an angry animal; to give forth an angry, grumbling sound.
    Synonyms: gnar, gnarl, gurl, snarl
    The dog growled at me as I walked past.
    • 1692, Roger L’Estrange, “[The Fables of Æsop, &c.] Fab[le] CLV. A Shepherd and a Wolves Whelp [Reflexion].”, in Fables, of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists: [], London: [] R[ichard] Sare, [], →OCLC, page 140:
      [T]here are Wolf-Whelps in Palaces, and Governments, as well as in Cottages, and Forreſts. [] They go out however, as there is Occaſion, and Hunt and Growle for Company; but at the ſame time, they give the Sign out of their Maſters hand, hold Intelligence with the Enemy; and Make uſe of their Power and Credit to Worry Honeſter Men them Themſelves.
    • 1806, [Isaac] Watts, B. Jacobs [i.e., Benjamin Jacob], “Let Dogs Delight to Bark and Bite. Song 16.”, in Dr. Watts’ Divine & Moral Songs [], London: Printed for & sold by the author, [], →OCLC, page 18:
      Let bears and lions growl and fight, / Let bears and lions growl and fight, / For 'tis their nature too, / For 'tis their nature too.
    • 1841, “Fydget Fyxington”, in Charles Dickens, editor, The Pic Nic Papers. [] (Collection of Ancient and Modern British Authors; CCCXXX), Paris: Baudry’s European Library, []; and Stassin et Xavier, [], →OCLC, page 225:
      "All's for the worst" is a very common motto, and under its influence there are thousands who growl when they go to bed, and growl still louder when they get up; who growl at their breakfast, who growl at their dinner, who growl at their supper, and who growl between meals. Discontent is written in every feature of their visage; []
    • 1868 April 25, The Spectator: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature, Theology, and Art, volume 41, number 2078, London: John Campbell, [], →ISSN, →OCLC, page 482, column 2:
      Lord Derby growled,—growling especially at Mr. [William Ewart] Gladstone,—and the Archbishop of Canterbury growled, and the Bishop of Oxford growled, and the Marquis of Bath (a good Conservative) growled, but he (the Marquis) growled at the Government rather than at the Bill.
    • 2016, Ted Sanders, “April”, in The Harp and the Ravenvine (The Keepers; 2), New York, N.Y.: Harper, →ISBN:
      April woke in darkness to the sound of Baron growling. Not that she could hear the dog, exactly. He was far out in the backyard at the edge of the woods. [] April waited for the dog to settle down. Instead, his growling grew deeper.
  2. (intransitive, jazz) Of a wind instrument: to produce a low-pitched rumbling sound.
    • 1998, Jackie Kay, “Music”, in Trumpet, London: Picador, →ISBN; 1st Vintage Contemporaries edition, New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books, 2000, →ISBN:
      And he is bending in the wind, scooping pitch, growling. [] He plays his false fingers. Chokes the trumpet. He is naked. This is naked jazz. O-bop-she-bam. Never lying. Telling it like it is.
    • 2016, Henry Martin, Keith Waters, quoting Duke Ellington, “1920s Jazz in New York and Europe”, in Jazz: The First 100 Years, 3rd enhanced edition, Boston, Mass.: Cengage Learning, →ISBN, page 121:
      James "Bubber" Miley "used to growl all night long, playing gutbucket on his horn. That was when we decided to forget all about the sweet music."
  3. (intransitive, software) To send a user a message via the Growl software library.
  4. (transitive) To express (something) by growling.
    The old man growled his displeasure at the postman.
    • 1853, Marca, “The Leads of St. Mark”, in The British Journal: A Home, Colonial, and General Magazine, volume III, London: John Mortimer, publisher, [], →OCLC, page 345:
      Bastane, as he entered, growled an invective, while he sullenly expressed his discontent at an unexpected call and additional labour.
  5. (transitive, jazz) To play a wind instrument in a way that produces a low-pitched rumbling sound.
    • 2005, Gerald Majer, “Proxima Ra”, in The Velvet Lounge: On Late Chicago Jazz, New York, N.Y., Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page 37:
      [] John Gilmore would take up his tenor and growl a keening march, Danny Thompson stab and worry with a flute, Sun Ra leave his big conga and mount the temple of keyboards for a ritual parenthesis of chromatic zig-zags and electro-howls.
  6. (intransitive) To perform death growl vocals.

Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from growl (verb)



  1. ^ grollen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 13 November 2018.
  2. ^ growl, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900; growl, v.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900.

Further reading[edit]



Swedish Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia sv


Borrowed from English growl.


growl c

  1. growl (death growl)


Declension of growl 
Indefinite Definite
Nominative growl growlen
Genitive growls growlens

Related terms[edit]