adjective, grim·mer, grim·mest.

stern and admitting of no appeasement or compromise: grim determination; grim necessity.
of a sinister or ghastly character; repellent: a grim joke.
having a harsh, surly, forbidding, or morbid air: a grim man but a just one; a grim countenance.
fierce, savage, or cruel: War is a grim business.

Origin of grim

before 900; Middle English, Old English; cognate with Old Saxon, Old High German grimm, Old Norse grimmr
Related formsgrim·ly, adverbgrim·ness, noun

Synonyms for grim

Antonyms for grim Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for grimly

powerfully, brutally, firmly, gratingly, grimly

Examples from the Web for grimly

Contemporary Examples of grimly

Historical Examples of grimly

  • The Bines what-not in the sitting-room was grimly orthodox in its equipment.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "You will find out what I am going to do," said Ben, grimly.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • "You would only call once," he said very gently, yet most grimly.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "You can see for yourself," he said grimly to the dumfounded magnate.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "Have to be higher than that," the Inspector commented, grimly.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

British Dictionary definitions for grimly


adjective grimmer or grimmest

stern; resolutegrim determination
harsh or formidable in manner or appearance
harshly ironic or sinistergrim laughter
cruel, severe, or ghastlya grim accident
archaic, or poetic fiercea grim warrior
informal unpleasant; disagreeable
hold on like grim death to hold very firmly or resolutely
Derived Formsgrimly, adverbgrimness, noun

Word Origin for grim

Old English grimm; related to Old Norse grimmr, Old High German grimm savage, Greek khremizein to neigh
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 grimly

Old English grimlic (adj.) "fierce, bloodthirsty, cruel," grimlice (adv.); see grim + -ly. Cf. Middle Dutch grimmelijc, Old Norse grimmligr.



Old English grimm "fierce, cruel, savage, dire, painful," from Proto-Germanic *grimmaz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German grimm, Old Norse grimmr, Swedish grym "fierce, furious"), from PIE *ghrem- "angry," perhaps imitative of the sound of rumbling thunder (cf. Greek khremizein "to neigh," Old Church Slavonic vuzgrimeti "to thunder," Russian gremet' "thunder").

A weaker word now than once it was; sense of "dreary, gloomy" first recorded late 12c. It also had a verb form in Old English, grimman (class III strong verb; past tense gramm, p.p. grummen). Old English also had a noun, grima "goblin, specter," perhaps also a proper name or attribute-name of a god, hence its appearance as an element in place names.

Grim reaper as a figurative way to say "death" is attested by 1847 (the association of grim and death goes back at least to 17c.). A Middle English expression for "have recourse to harsh measures" was to wend the grim tooth (early 13c.).



"spectre, bogey, haunting spirit," 1620s, from grim (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper