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From Middle English groul, groulen, grollen, gurle, 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] 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.
  2. (by extension) The rumbling sound made by a person's stomach when hungry.
  3. (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 55746801, 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.
  4. (jazz, by extension) A low-pitched rumbling sound produced with a wind instrument.

Derived terms[edit]


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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.
  2. (intransitive, jazz) Of a wind instrument: to produce a low-pitched rumbling sound.
  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.
  5. (transitive, jazz) To play a wind instrument in a way that produces a low-pitched rumbling sound.

Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from growl (verb)


Alternative forms[edit]


  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: Oxford University Press, 1900; “growl, v.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1900.

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