gravel (n.) Look up gravel at
"stone in small, irregular fragments," early 13c., from Old French gravele "sand, gravel; sea-shore; sandy bed of a river," diminutive of grave "sand, seashore" (Modern French grève), possibly from Celtic *graw- (compare Welsh gro "coarse gravel," Breton grouan, Cornish grow "gravel"), perhaps ultimately from PIE *ghreu- "to rub, grind" (see grit (n.)). Gravel-crusher was World War I slang for "infantryman."
gravelly (adj.) Look up gravelly at
late 14c., "covered with gravel or sand," from gravel + -y (2). Of voices, by 1943.
gravely (adv.) Look up gravely at
1550s, "solemnly," from grave (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "in an important degree" is by 1835.
graven (adj.) Look up graven at
"sculpted, carved," late 14c., past participle adjective from grave (v.) + -en (1).
Gravenstein Look up Gravenstein at
apple variety, 1802, from Gravenstein, German form of the name of a village and ducal estate (Danish Graasten) in Schleswig-Holstein.
graver (n.) Look up graver at
"one who cuts (letters or figures) in stone, wood, etc.," Old English græfere, agent noun from grafan (see grave (v.)). As "tool for engraving" from 1540s.
Graves' disease Look up Graves' disease at
"exophthalmic goiter," 1862, named for Irish physician Robert James Graves (1796-1853), who first recognized the disease in 1835. The surname probably is from Old Norse greifi "steward," corresponding to Old English gerefa (see reeve).
gravestone (n.) Look up gravestone at
"stone over a grave," late 14c.; earlier "stone coffin" (c. 1200), from grave (n.) + stone (n.). Similar formation in German Grabstein, Dutch grafsteen, Danish gravsten.
graveyard (n.) Look up graveyard at
1683, from grave (n.) + yard (n.1). Graveyard shift "late-night work" is c. 1907, from earlier nautical term, in reference to the loneliness of after-hours work.
gravid (adj.) Look up gravid at
"pregnant," 1590s, from Latin gravidus "loaded, full, swollen; pregnant with child," from gravis "burdened, heavy" (see grave (adj.)). Related: Gravidity. Gravidation "pregnancy" is attested from mid-15c.
gravigrade (adj.) Look up gravigrade at
"walking with heavy steps," 1839, probably via French, a modern scientific compound from Latin gravis "heavy" (see grave (adj.)) + gradi "to walk" (see grade (n.)).
gravimeter (n.) Look up gravimeter at
1797, from French gravimètre, from Latin gravis "heavy" (see grave (adj.)) + -mètre (see -meter).
gravitas (n.) Look up gravitas at
1924, usually in italics, from Latin gravitas "weight, heaviness;" figuratively, of persons, "dignity, presence, influence" (see gravity). A word wanted when gravity acquired a primarily scientific meaning.
gravitate (v.) Look up gravitate at
1640s, "exert weight; move downward" (obsolete), from Modern Latin gravitare (16c. in scientific writing), from Latin gravitas "heaviness, weight," from gravis "heavy" (see grave (adj.)). Meaning "be affected by gravity" is from 1690s. Figurative sense "be strongly attracted to, have a natural tendency toward" is from 1670s. Related: Gravitated; gravitating. The classical Latin verb was gravare "to make heavy, burden, oppress, aggravate."
gravitation (n.) Look up gravitation at
1640s in physics, "force that gives weight to objects," also figurative, "act of tending toward a center of attraction," from Modern Latin gravitare (see gravitate). Compare gravity.
gravitational (adj.) Look up gravitational at
1816, from gravitation + -al (1). Related: Gravitationally.
gravity (n.) Look up gravity at
c. 1500, "weight, dignity, seriousness, solemnity of deportment or character, importance," from Old French gravité "seriousness, thoughtfulness" (13c.) and directly from Latin gravitatem (nominative gravitas) "weight, heaviness, pressure," from gravis "heavy" (see grave (adj.)). The scientific sense of "downward acceleration of terrestrial bodies due to gravitation of the Earth" first recorded 1620s.
The words gravity and gravitation have been more or less confounded; but the most careful writers use gravitation for the attracting force, and gravity for the terrestrial phenomenon of weight or downward acceleration which has for its two components the gravitation and the centrifugal force. [Century Dictionary, 1902]
gravure (n.) Look up gravure at
1893, short for photogravure.
gravy (n.) Look up gravy at
late 14c. (early 14c. in Anglo-French), from Old French grave, graue, apparently a misspelling of grané "sauce, stew," with -n- misread for -u- -- the character used for -v- in medial positions in words in medieval manuscripts. The French word probably originally meant "properly grained, seasoned," from Latin granum "grain, seed" (see grain (n.)). Meaning "money easily acquired" first attested 1910; gravy train (1909) originally was railroad slang for a short haul that paid well. Gravy-boat "small, deep dish for holding gravy or sauce" is from 1827.
gray (adj.) Look up gray at
"of a color between white and black; having little or no color or luminosity," Old English græg "gray" (Mercian grei), from Proto-Germanic *grewa- "gray" (source also of Old Norse grar, Old Frisian gre, Middle Dutch gra, Dutch graw, Old High German grao, German grau), with no certain connections outside Germanic. French gris, Spanish gris, Italian grigio, Medieval Latin griseus are Germanic loan-words. The spelling distinction between British grey and U.S. gray developed 20c. Expression the gray mare is the better horse in reference to households ruled by wives is recorded from 1540s.
gray (n.) Look up gray at
c. 1200, from gray (adj.). Gray as figurative for "Southern troops in the U.S. Civil War" is first recorded 1863, in reference to their uniform color.
gray (v.) Look up gray at
"become gray, wither," 1610s (with an isolated instance from late 14c.), from gray (adj.). Related: Grayed; graying.
graybeard (n.) Look up graybeard at
also greybeard, "old man," 1570s, from gray (adj.) + beard (n.). Middle English had gray-hair (n.) "old man" (late 15c.), and simple gray in this sense is from late 14c.
grayling (n.) Look up grayling at
trout-like freshwater fish, early 14c., from gray (n.) + diminutive suffix -ling.
graywacke (n.) Look up graywacke at
also greywacke, 1806, partial translation of German grauwacke; see gray (adj.) + wacke.
graze (v.1) Look up graze at
"to feed on grass," Old English grasian, from græs "grass" (see grass). Compare Middle Dutch, Middle High German grasen, Dutch grazen, German grasen. Transitive sense from 1560s. Figurative use by 1570s. Related: Grazed; grazing.
graze (v.2) Look up graze at
"to touch lightly in passing," c. 1600, perhaps a transferred sense from graze (v.1) via a notion of cropping grass right down to the ground (compare German grasen "to feed on grass," used in military sense in reference to cannonballs that rebound off the ground). Related: Grazed; grazing. As a noun from 1690s, "an act of grazing."
grazier (n.) Look up grazier at
"one who pastures cattle for market," late 13c. as a surname, agent noun from graze (v.1).
grease (n.) Look up grease at
"oily fat of land animals," c. 1300, from Anglo-French grece, Old French gresse, craisse "grease, fat" (Modern French graisse), from Vulgar Latin *crassia "(melted) animal fat, grease," from Latin crassus "thick, solid, fat" (source also of Spanish grasa, Italian grassa). Grease paint, used by actors, attested from 1880. Grease monkey "mechanic" is from 1920.
grease (v.) Look up grease at
mid-14c., "smear, lubricate, or anoint with grease or fat," from grease (n.). Sense of "ply with bribe or protection money" is 1520s, from notion of grease the wheels "make things run smoothly" (mid-15c.). To grease (someone's) palm is from 1580s. Expression greased lightning, representing something that goes very fast, is American English, by 1832.
greaser (n.) Look up greaser at
early 14c. (as a surname), "one who smears salve on a sheep," agent noun from grease (v.). As a contemptuous American English slang for "native Mexican or Latin American," first attested 1848, a term from the Mexican-American War; supposedly so called from unclean appearance, but contemporary sources sometimes explain it otherwise: an 1848 account of the war defines it as "friendly Mexican," and adds:
It may here be necessary to explain, as the terms are frequently made use of, that mocho is a low Spanish word for a foot-soldier, and the term greaser we suppose is a corruption of word grazier, the class of péons or labourers of the country. [Samuel C. Ried Jr., "The Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers," Philadelphia, 1848]
Greaseball in same sense is from 1934 (earlier it was World War I slang for "an army cook," and from 1922 for "mechanic").
greasy (adj.) Look up greasy at
1510s, from grease (n.) + -y (2). Related: Greasily; greasiness. Greasy spoon "small, cheap restaurant; dirty boarding-house" is from 1906.
great (adj.) Look up great at
Old English great "big, tall, thick, stout, massive; coarse," from West Germanic *grautaz "coarse, thick" (source also of Old Saxon grot, Old Frisian grat, Dutch groot, German groß "great"). If the original sense was "coarse," it is perhaps from PIE root *ghreu- "to rub, grind," but "the connextion is not free from difficulty" [OED]. It took over much of the sense of Middle English mickle, and itself now is largely superseded by big and large except in reference to non-material things.

In the sense of "excellent, wonderful" great is attested from 1848. Great White Way "Broadway in New York City" is from 1901, in reference to brilliant street illumination. The Great Lakes of North America so called by 1726, perhaps 1690s. Great Spirit "high deity of the North American Indians," 1703, originally translates Ojibwa kitchi manitou. The Great War originally (1887) referred to the Napoleonic Wars, later (1914) to what we now call World War I (see world).
"The Great War" -- as, until the fall of France, the British continued to call the First World War in order to avoid admitting to themselves that they were now again engaged in a war of the same magnitude. [Arnold Toynbee, "Experiences," 1969]
Also formerly with a verb form, Old English greatian "to become enlarged," Middle English greaten "to become larger, increase, grow; become visibly pregnant," which became archaic after 17c.
Great Britain Look up Great Britain at
c. 1400, Grete Britaigne "the land of the Britons before the English conquest" (as opposed to Brittany), also "England and Wales;" see great (adj.) + Britain.
great- Look up great- at
word-forming element denoting "kinship one degree further removed," early 15c. (in great uncle), from great (adj.), based on similar use of French grand (see grand-). An Old English way of saying "great-grandfather" was þridda fæder, literally "third father;" in early Middle English furþur ealdefader was used (12c.).
great-aunt (n.) Look up great-aunt at
1650s, from great- + aunt.
great-grandfather (n.) Look up great-grandfather at
1510s, from great- + grandfather.
great-grandmother (n.) Look up great-grandmother at
1520s, from great- + grandmother.
great-hearted (adj.) Look up great-hearted at
"of noble courage," late 14c., from great (adj.) + hearted.
great-uncle (n.) Look up great-uncle at
mid-15c., from great- + uncle.
greatcoat (n.) Look up greatcoat at
"large, heavy overcoat," 1660s, from great (adj.) + coat (n.).
greater Look up greater at
Old English gryttra, Anglian *gretra; comparative of great.
greatest (adj.) Look up greatest at
early 13c., superlative of great.
greatly (adv.) Look up greatly at
c. 1200, from great + -ly (2). Similar formation in Middle Dutch grotelike, Dutch grootelijks.
greatness (n.) Look up greatness at
late Old English gretnys "thickness, coarseness, stoutness;" see great + -ness. Meaning "eminence" is early 14c.
greave (n.) Look up greave at
"metal armor to protect the front of the leg below the knee," c. 1300, from Old French greve "shin, armor for the leg" (12c.), of unknown origin. [Klein suggests it ultimately is from Egyptian Arabic gaurab "stocking, apparel for the leg."]
greaves (n.) Look up greaves at
mid-14c., plural of greave.
grebe (n.) Look up grebe at
diving bird, 1766, from French grèbe (16c.), of unknown origin, possibly from Breton krib "a comb," since some species are crested.
Grecian (adj.) Look up Grecian at
c. 1400, from Old French Grecien, from Latin Graecia "Greece" (see Greek (n.)) + people ending -ian. The noun meaning "a Greek" is from early 15c.
Greco- Look up Greco- at
see Graeco-.