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[nahr-lee] /ˈnɑr li/
adjective, gnarlier, gnarliest.
Slang. distasteful; distressing; offensive; gross:
a comic noted for his gnarly humor.
Origin of gnarly
1820-30; gnarl1 + -y1
Related forms
gnarliness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for gnarly
  • Below you will see the struggle it takes for an entire team of fishermen to catch this gnarly beast.
  • It's a palace of thrash, with as many gnarly facets as the best skate parks.
  • Near the mouth of the river is a sandy spit with low buildings decorated with oyster shells and gnarly driftwood.
  • And even the burliest sport coats can't defend against gnarly torrents of snow, sleet or bitter cold.
  • With gnarly computations one has to go through the whole messy detail step by step.
  • Simulating an economy is almost certainly a gnarly computation.
  • And sometimes cooking leaches out overly strong or gnarly flavors.
  • The demon ended up being an ancient sculpture of a gnarly monster, buried along with other stone sculptures.
  • Bark on smaller branches develops corky wings, or ridges, giving it a gnarly appearance.
  • On a knotty, gnarly block of wood you'll need to start your split from the outside edges and slab off the sides.
British Dictionary definitions for gnarly


another word for gnarled
(NZ, informal) good; great
(surfing, slang) difficult and dangerous
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
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Word Origin and History for gnarly

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."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for gnarly


  1. Excellent; wonderful; cool, hairy, great: That girl is gnarly. She goes to every party there is
  2. Disgusting: So, when the halls became a little too gnarly for Principal Charles Lutgen/ ''Gnarly'' means disgusting

[1980s+ Teenagers; said to have originated among 1970s surfers, describing a dangerous wave; this sense persisted among skateboarders until at least 1988]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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gnarly in Technology

/nar'lee/ Both obscure and hairy. "Yow! - the tuned assembler implementation of BitBlt is really gnarly!" From a similar but less specific usage in surfer slang.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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