verb (used without object)
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Origin of gawk
BEHIND THE WORD
Where does the word gawk come from?
We’ve all gawked, or “stared stupidly,” at various spectacles, from acrobats to celebrity meltdowns.
Word nerds gawk at the origin of gawk—because it’s a spectacular puzzle.
Gawk is recorded in 1775–85 in American English. It’s believed that gawk is based on an Old English word meaning “fool,” which appears in gawk hand or gallock hand, referring to the left hand. Our apologies, lefties.
Stubborn isn’t alone: it finds lots of company in other English words that seem simple but whose origins are not. Discover more in our slideshow “‘Dog,’ ‘Boy,’ And Other Words That We Don’t Know Where They Came From.”
Did you know … ?
Gawk is just one of the many words we use to describe looking at something in a certain way. Other words that are close in meaning to gawk include gape and ogle. Gawk can be easily confused with other forms of looking, such as stare, gaze, leer, eyeball, and scan.
So, when should you use gawk as opposed to, say, gaze? Gawk is generally used when something or someone stupefies a person to the point that all they can do is stare in confusion, amazement, or disbelief. You can gawk at something bad (e.g., He stood and gawked at the train accident) or something good, as in The judge couldn’t help but gawk at the amazing gymnastics routine.
How to use gawk in a sentence
It would definitely be wrong for TLC to encourage us to gawk at these men but their story is worth investigating nonetheless.Your Husband Is Definitely Gay: TLC’s Painful Portrait of Mormonism|Samantha Allen|January 1, 2015|DAILY BEAST
More than 50,000 cars passed along Quiet Dell Road so people could gawk.Murder, She Wrote: Jayne Anne Phillips on Her New Novel|Jane Ciabattari|October 21, 2013|DAILY BEAST
GAWK at the unparalleled treasures of the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace.How to Play Hooky at the G20 Summit: A Guide to St. Petersburg|Nina Strochlic|September 4, 2013|DAILY BEAST
Rather than be instructional or cautionary, the show turns its subjects into feasting zoo objects for audiences to gawk at.‘The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum’: TLC’s Lowest Show Yet?|Kevin Fallon|August 1, 2013|DAILY BEAST
Of those snapping pictures, almost all were locals who had paused to gawk at the strange sight.Tourists in New York Flock to See Damage Wrought by Sandy|Nina Strochlic|November 2, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Ere Alfred could reply, a big gawk chimed in with: "By the dust on their britches laigs I callerate they didn't ride much."Watch Yourself Go By|Al. G. Field
Several spectators stopped venting their wrath on the unfortunate man in the ring to gawk at the couple.Thy Rocks and Rills|Robert Ernest Gilbert
Well, Weener, are you going to stand there and gawk for the next twentyfour hours or are you coming back with us?Greener Than You Think|Ward Moore
The silly old gawk has got hold of your father and has actually made the old man believe that you are bewitched!The Christian|Hall Caine
She was tall and lean—a college friend had described her exactly as "half goddess and half gawk."Walking Shadows|Alfred Noyes