[greyv; for 4, 6 also grahv]

adjective, grav·er, grav·est for 1–3, 5.

serious or solemn; sober: a grave person; grave thoughts.
weighty, momentous, or important: grave responsibilities.
threatening a seriously bad outcome or involving serious issues; critical: a grave situation; a grave illness.
  1. unaccented.
  2. spoken on a low or falling pitch.
  3. noting or having a particular accent (`) indicating originally a comparatively low pitch (as in French père), distinct syllabic value (as in English belovèd), etc. (opposed to acute).
(of colors) dull; somber.


the grave accent.

Origin of grave

1535–45; < Middle French < Latin gravis; akin to Greek barýs heavy
Related formsgrave·ly, adverbgrave·ness, nounun·grave·ly, adverb
Can be confusedgravely gravelly

Synonyms for grave

1. sedate, staid, thoughtful. Grave, sober, solemn refer to the condition of being serious in demeanor or appearance. Grave indicates a weighty dignity, or the character, aspect, demeanor, speech, etc., of one conscious of heavy responsibilities or cares, or of threatening possibilities: The jury looked grave while studying the evidence. Sober (from its original sense of freedom from intoxication, and hence temperate, staid, sedate) has come to indicate absence of levity, gaiety, or mirth, and thus to be akin to serious and grave: as sober as a judge; a sober expression on one's face. Solemn implies an impressive seriousness and deep earnestness: The minister's voice was solemn as he announced the text.

Antonyms for grave


[grah-vey; Italian grah-ve]Music.


slow; solemn.


slowly; solemnly.

Origin of grave

1575–85; < Italian grave < Latin gravis heavy; see grave2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gravest

Contemporary Examples of gravest

  • To many, it sounded like he was trivializing the gravest of issues.

  • They can justify all their howling by arguing that this scandal is more serious, more deserving of the gravest steps being taken.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Right’s Scandal Hypocrisy

    Michael Tomasky

    May 21, 2013

  • He told The Daily Telegraph he always had the “gravest suspicions” that the killing had involved “state actors” in Russia.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Was Russian Dissident Poisoned by the State?

    The Telegraph

    September 20, 2012

  • In our 235 years as a nation, that might have been—other than the Civil War—the gravest threat our republic has ever faced.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Arrivederci, Sarah!

    Joe McGinniss

    October 6, 2011

  • The gravest threat to U.S. security may come from the militant Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Scariest Terror Plot

    Bruce Riedel, Aysha Chowdhry

    January 27, 2010

Historical Examples of gravest

  • Fifty lashes is a maximum punishment, inflicted only for the gravest crimes.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • Did ever the greatest or the gravest men pretend to any of this kind?

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1

    Henry Fielding

  • I would make you smile in the midst of your gravest airs, as I used to do.

    Clarissa, Volume 3 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Such was his own experience that he was beset by the gravest doubts.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • To many this would be a personal disaster of the gravest kind.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

British Dictionary definitions for gravest




a place for the burial of a corpse, esp beneath the ground and usually marked by a tombstoneRelated adjective: sepulchral
something resembling a grave or resting placethe ship went to its grave
the grave a poetic term for death
have one foot in the grave informal to be near death
to make someone turn in his grave or to make someone turn over in his grave to do something that would have shocked or distressed (someone now dead)many modern dictionaries would make Dr Johnson turn in his grave

Word Origin for grave

Old English græf; related to Old Frisian gref, Old High German grab, Old Slavonic grobǔ; see grave ³




serious and solemna grave look
full of or suggesting dangera grave situation
important; crucialgrave matters of state
(of colours) sober or dull
  1. (of a vowel or syllable in some languages with a pitch accent, such as ancient Greek) spoken on a lower or falling musical pitch relative to neighbouring syllables or vowels
  2. of or relating to an accent (`) over vowels, denoting a pronunciation with lower or falling musical pitch (as in ancient Greek), with certain special quality (as in French), or in a manner that gives the vowel status as a syllable nucleus not usually possessed by it in that position (as in English agèd)Compare acute (def. 8), circumflex


a grave accent
Derived Formsgravely, adverbgraveness, noun

Word Origin for grave

C16: from Old French, from Latin gravis; related to Greek barus heavy; see gravamen



verb graves, graving, graved, graved or graven (tr) archaic

to cut, carve, sculpt, or engrave
to fix firmly in the mind

Word Origin for grave

Old English grafan; related to Old Norse grafa, Old High German graban to dig




(tr) nautical to clean and apply a coating of pitch to (the bottom of a vessel)

Word Origin for grave

C15: perhaps from Old French grave gravel



adjective, adverb

music to be performed in a solemn manner

Word Origin for grave

C17: from Italian: heavy, from Latin gravis
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 gravest



Old English græf "grave, ditch, cave," from Proto-Germanic *graban (cf. Old Saxon graf, Old Frisian gref, Old High German grab "grave, tomb;" Old Norse gröf "cave," Gothic graba "ditch"), from PIE root *ghrebh- "to dig, to scratch, to scrape" (cf. Old Church Slavonic grobu "grave, tomb"); related to grafan "to dig" (see grave (v.)).

"The normal mod. representation of OE. græf would be graff; the ME. disyllable grave, from which the standard mod. form descends, was prob. due to the especially frequent occurrence of the word in the dat. (locative) case. [OED]

From Middle Ages to 17c., they were temporary, crudely marked repositories from which the bones were removed to ossuaries after some years and the grave used for a fresh burial. "Perpetual graves" became common from c.1650. To make (someone) turn in his grave "behave in some way that would have offended the dead person" is first recorded 1888.



1540s, from Middle French grave (14c.), from Latin gravis "weighty, serious, heavy, grievous, oppressive," from PIE root *gwere- "heavy" (cf. Sanskrit guruh "heavy, weighty, venerable;" Greek baros "weight," barys "heavy in weight," often with the notion of "strength, force;" Old English cweorn "quern;" Gothic kaurus "heavy;" Lettish gruts "heavy"). Greek barys (opposed to kouphos) also was used figuratively, of suffering, sorrow, sobbing, and could mean "oppressive, burdensome, grave, dignified, impressive." The noun meaning "accent mark over a vowel" is c.1600, from French.



"to engrave," Old English grafan (medial -f- pronounced as "v" in Old English; past tense grof, past participle grafen) "to dig, carve, dig up," from Proto-Germanic *grabanan (cf. Old Norse grafa, Old Frisian greva, Dutch graven, Old High German graban, German graben, Gothic graban "to dig, carve"), from the same source as grave (n.). Its Middle English strong past participle, graven, is the only part still active, the rest of the word supplanted by its derivative, engrave.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for gravest




Serious or dangerous, as a symptom or disease.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with gravest


see dig one's own grave; from the cradle to the grave; one foot in the grave; turn in one's grave.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.