• synonyms


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

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

British Dictionary definitions for gnarliness


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



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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper