What does gritty mean?
Gritty describes something that is rough and tough. It is often used to describe creative content that is realistic and raw.
Gritty is also the name of the Philadelphia Flyer’s orange, hairy mascot who debuted in 2018 and became a popular meme and leftist symbol.
Where does gritty come from?
Gritty is the adjective version of grit and is used to describe things resembling sand or gravel. This sense dates back to the late 1500s.
Its metaphorical sense, for something “coarse,” emerges in the late 19th century. One early example comes from a 1888 New York collection of literary criticism that uses gritty to describe the book Annie Kilburn. A critic describes the book as “perfectly real, if rather grim and gritty, in its portrayal of characters and manners.”
Gritty spread in the 20th century as a common term critics and viewers would use to describe films and TV shows (and later, comic books and video games) that were especially realistic, raw, harsh, or cynical–such as film noir or Westerns.
A gritty person, meanwhile, has courage and pluck, a sense of the word, a sense that dates back to the mid-1800s.
And, of course, there’s Gritty, the orange, googly-eyed, muppet-like mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers professional hockey team.
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
Gritty debuted on September 24, 2018, and the bizarre mascot gained quick adoration and internet-fame. The Flyers’ rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, mocked Gritty on Twitter upon his unveiling. Gritty did not take this slight lightly.
Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird. pic.twitter.com/wLmGBa0Oyh
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
Thanks to this viral threat (and his unusual appearance), Gritty was an instant meme. Mere days after his reveal, Gritty was already on the talk show circuit, memorably picking a fight with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
Stay tuned as Gritty car jacks the zamboni and robs a convenience store https://t.co/B1KfgTnJSq
— Douglas Hunter (@DWHauthor) September 25, 2018
Gritty memes spread like wildfire, including on Gritty’s own social media accounts.
Goodnight, internet. pic.twitter.com/gx2Pbxfcds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 25, 2018
Gritty also caught on with far-left groups in the US. They imagined him as a working-class hero, a champion of the proletariat, ready to brawl for your rights.
Gritty is a worker
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) September 26, 2018
My theory on why Gritty is an aspirational figure for the left rn is that he looks like he's tryna fight.
— Malcolm Harris (@BigMeanInternet) October 18, 2018
Just as Pepe the Frog became a far-right mascot so Gritty became a leftist icon after members of the far-left group Antifa used in a protest banner during President Donald Trump’s visit to Philadelphia in October 2018.
Things got even weirder—er, grittier—when, on October 25, 2018, the Philadelphia City Council acknowledged Gritty’s status as a leftist symbol, humorously referring to him as “insurrectionary” and a “non-binary leftist icon” in a somehow-not-made-up Gritty Resolution.
Strange as this all seems, Gritty-mania was really nothing unusual for a year like 2018.
Examples of gritty
Who uses gritty?
Gritty is often used to describe things that are dark and edgy. If a movie is gritty, that probably means it is violent, depressing, or isn’t for kids. But we’ll probably see it anyway.
#ThePunisher Sea. 2: Darker and more gritty season, really explores the different crime scenarios in unexpected ways. Cast is great, though the new characters feel a bit underdeveloped. I think season 1 is a bit better, but this is still very strong. -Jay #TeamDMP pic.twitter.com/gHby4t0DjM
— Desperate Measures Productions (@Team_DMP) January 21, 2019
Sin City is such a gritty and beautiful film
Leaves me breathless
— Maleficent (@DisoRientedKat) July 25, 2018
Game of Thrones will come down to Jon Snow vs. Tyrion Lannister. The show is a dark, gritty adaptation of the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes."
— Brian Boone (@brianbooone) June 7, 2017
As for the indefatigable orange hairball, Gritty remains a meme legend…
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) January 1, 2019
Saw a movie this wknd. @ladygaga I’ve also been called the songbird of my generation 🕊
What did you guys do? pic.twitter.com/6YyP1cn6WK
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) October 22, 2018
…a leftist darling.
— Millicent Durand 🌹 (@MillicentDurand) January 23, 2019
This is not meant to be a formal definition of gritty like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of gritty that will help our users expand their word mastery.