gawk

[ gawk ]
/ gɔk /

verb (used without object)

to stare stupidly; gape: The onlookers gawked at arriving celebrities.

noun

an awkward, foolish person.

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Origin of gawk

1775–85; apparently representing OE word meaning fool, equivalent to ga(gol) foolish + -oc-ock; used attributively in gawk hand, gallock hand left hand

Words nearby gawk

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

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.

An alternative idea is that gawk is based on gaw, an old word meaning “to gaze, stare,” with an additional -k suffix found in other words such as talk and stalk.

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.

Looking for more synonyms for gawk? Why not take a peek at Thesaurus.com for our many synonyms for the words see and look.

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.

Example sentences from the Web for gawk

British Dictionary definitions for gawk

gawk
/ (ɡɔːk) /

noun

a clumsy stupid person; lout

verb

(intr) to stare in a stupid way; gape

Word Origin for gawk

C18: from Old Danish gaukr; probably related to gape
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