adjective, gnarl·i·er, gnarl·i·est.
  1. gnarled.
  2. Slang. distasteful; distressing; offensive; gross: a comic noted for his gnarly humor.

Origin of gnarly

First recorded in 1820–30; gnarl1 + -y1
Related formsgnarl·i·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gnarliest

Contemporary Examples of gnarliest

Historical Examples of gnarliest

  • The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye.

    Excursions and Poems

    Henry David Thoreau

British Dictionary definitions for gnarliest


  1. another word for gnarled
  2. NZ informal good; great
  3. surfing slang difficult and dangerous
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 gnarliest



1829, "knotted and rugged," from gnarl (see gnarled) + -y (2). Picked up 1970s as surfer slang to describe a dangerous wave; it had spread in teen slang by 1982, where it meant both "excellent" and "disgusting."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper