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  1. a knotty protuberance on a tree; knot.
verb (used with object)
  1. to twist into a knotted or distorted form.

Origin of gnarl1

First recorded in 1805–15; back formation from gnarled


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2. contort, distort.


verb (used without object)
  1. to growl; snarl.

Origin of gnarl2

First recorded in 1585–95; variant of gnar
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gnarl

Historical Examples

  • In a little while he returned, carrying a gnarl of pine wood, which he set to blazing at the fire.

    The Red Tavern

    Charles Raymond Macauley

  • The ball is a knob or gnarl from the trunk of a tree, carefully formed into a globular shape.

British Dictionary definitions for gnarl


  1. any knotty protuberance or swelling on a tree
  1. (tr) to knot or cause to knot

Word Origin

C19: back formation from gnarled, probably variant of knurled; see knurl


gnar (nɑː)

  1. (intr) obsolete to growl or snarl

Word Origin

C16: of imitative origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gnarl


"contort, twist," 1814, a back-formation from gnarled. As a noun from 1824. Earlier the verb was used in a sense of "to snarl" (1590s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper