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[grim] /grɪm/
adjective, grimmer, grimmest.
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 forms
grimly, adverb
grimness, noun
1. harsh, unyielding. 2. frightful, horrible, dire, appalling, horrid, grisly, gruesome, hideous, dreadful. 3. severe, stern, hard. 4. ferocious, ruthless.
1. lenient. 2. attractive. 3. gentle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for grim
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The cat watched the poor mouse wriggle with grim satisfaction.

    All's Well Emily Sarah Holt
  • There was a grim smile on the cadet's face as he turned away from the wheel.

    A Prisoner of Morro Upton Sinclair
  • And the grim little room and solitude for the end of every journey!

    Far Off Things Arthur Machen
  • He had looked as grim and forbidding at breakfast as a Chinese god of war.

    The Man from the Bitter Roots Caroline Lockhart
  • Poetry, too; harsh and grim poetry, often, but the real thing.

British Dictionary definitions for grim


adjective grimmer, grimmest
stern; resolute: grim determination
harsh or formidable in manner or appearance
harshly ironic or sinister: grim laughter
cruel, severe, or ghastly: a grim accident
(archaic or poetic) fierce: a grim warrior
(informal) unpleasant; disagreeable
hold on like grim death, to hold very firmly or resolutely
Derived Forms
grimly, adverb
grimness, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for grim

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
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