[ groul ]
/ graʊl /
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See synonyms for: growl / growled / growling on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
verb (used with object)
to express by growling.
the act or sound of growling.
Jazz. the technique of flutter-tonguing.
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Origin of growl

1350–1400; Middle English groule to rumble (said of the bowels); cognate with German grollen

synonym study for growl

2. See complain.


growl·ing·ly, adverbun·der·growl, nounun·growl·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does growl mean?

To growl is to make a deep, rumbling grrrrr sound in the throat, like a guard dog does at an intruder. Growling is typically interpreted as an attempt to intimidate or show hostility.

Growl can also be used as a noun to refer to such a sound, as in We heard a terrifying growl in the woods.

Growling is most often associated with dogs, but other animals can growl or make sounds that can be considered growls, such as bears. People can growl in this way—a young child might growl when throwing a tantrum.

In the context of people, though, the word is more commonly used in a figurative way meaning to say something in a low, gruff, angry tone, as in “Get out now!” he growled.

Sometimes, it’s used in the context of a thing that’s making a deep rumbling sound, as in Listen to that engine growl! or The growl of the thunder was moving closer.

Example: We’ve had the same mail carrier for years, but my dog still growls at her.

Where does growl come from?

The first records of the word growl come from the 1300s. It comes from the Middle English groule, meaning “to rumble.” This word referred not to a rumbling of the throat but of the bowels.

We still use growl in this sense today—to say that your stomach is growling means that it is making rumbling sounds, typically because you’re hungry. Regardless of whether the word is used in this sense, the sense of a dog growling or a person saying something in a gruff tone, it always involves a low-pitched sound. And the word often implies that the sound is being made out of hostility or anger. Stomachs can’t get angry, of course, but saying that your stomach is growling can humorously imply that it’s upset because it wants more food.

The adjective growly can mean “resembling a growl,” but it can also mean “grouchy” or “irritable.”

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to growl?

What are some synonyms for growl?

What are some words that often get used in discussing growl?



How is growl used in real life?

Growl is most commonly used in a literal sense when referring to the threatening sound that dogs make, but it’s also commonly used in other ways.

Try using growl!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe a growl?

A. menacing

B. rumbling

C. welcoming

D. low-pitched

How to use growl in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for growl

/ (ɡraʊl) /

(of animals, esp when hostile) to utter (sounds) in a low inarticulate mannerthe dog growled at us
to utter (words) in a gruff or angry mannerhe growled an apology
(intr) to make sounds suggestive of an animal growlingthe thunder growled around the lake
the act or sound of growling
jazz an effect resembling a growl, produced at the back of the throat when playing a wind instrument

Derived forms of growl

growlingly, adverb

Word Origin for growl

C18: from earlier grolle, from Old French grouller to grumble
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