Definition of gnarly in English:


Pronunciation /ˈnärlē/ /ˈnɑrli/

adjectivegnarlier, gnarliest

  • 1Gnarled.

    ‘twisted trees and gnarly roots’
    • ‘Tucked away in the forest, and only accessible to those with local knowledge, its old contorted paperbark trees exhibited gnarly branches, trunks and burls.’
    • ‘The tree itself had been small and gnarly, withered and twisted like the arthritic seizure of an old man.’
    • ‘Once again, I defer to Timothy Gowers and his masterful lecture, where he spells out in detail how research contributions can be twisted, gnarly things that are hard to linearize.’
    • ‘But to me, the thing is mostly funny - and it was, after all, named after a Vaudeville comedian who used a wild-looking bent gnarly cane.’
    • ‘They are small, dark, rough, and gnarly, with concentric growth rings.’
    • ‘As I sipped, the waiter appeared at my elbow proudly showing off a plate on which two gnarly knots of truffle reposed.’
    • ‘It has a rough, gnarly look around the edges, the native fescue changing color with the seasons.’
    • ‘I planted myself in the rather aptly named Ghost Garden, next to ‘The Dancing Tree,’ a huge gnarly old rhododendron, all twists and loops.’
    • ‘Vaillancourt, sometimes described as the world's grandmaster of intuitive art, lives amid items ranging from abandoned industrial machinery to a gnarly tree stump he borrowed from Lafontaine Park after the ice storm.’
    • ‘It's better quality wood for pulp purposes, for making toilet paper or cardboard boxes, if you have a clean plantation wood, than if you have a gnarly beautiful tall old growth tree.’
    • ‘Maybe it's the swampy landscape littered with piles of gnarly kauri rescued from the deep wet soil and the knowledge that this timber once helped shape the country's colonial beginnings, but is no more.’
    • ‘OK, if a gnarly croc fought a Great White, who'd win?’
    • ‘He's a gnarly little old Aussi with a big voice who's done a lot of living and has the ballads to prove it.’
    • ‘But even in death the mangroves are unusual, becoming gnarly bits of modernistic art few sculptors call match.’
    knobbly, knotty, knotted, gnarly, lumpy, bumpy, nodular, rough
  • 2North American informal Difficult, dangerous, or challenging.

    • ‘she battled through the gnarly first sequence’
    • ‘The two things you need to know about Steve Roche, are that he gets things done and he does bizarre gnarly and difficult tricks on a skateboard.’
    • ‘‘Parts of Scotland are fantastic, really hardcore, gnarly, dangerous,’ he enthuses, fidgeting as he seems to imagine himself negotiating a climb.’
    • ‘Grob was giddy as hell up there, because the gnarly floes offered a rare challenge to a jaded ice-breaker.’
    • ‘They know the Nerf ball is as essential to the office as a fax, that pizza, applied correctly, goes a long way toward solving gnarly creative problems, and that when inspiration is short, team paintball may be the answer.’
    • ‘La Sportiva is now making bouldering shoes with a Vibram rubber covering to assist with toe-hooking on gnarly problems.’
    • ‘Right now, a charming brunette in baggy khakis is wrestling with a gnarly problem.’
    • ‘This systems view is essential for effectively dealing with the web of gnarly problems that entangle nations and strain international relations.’
    • ‘Hearts thumping, we slipped beneath the surface, anticipating a gnarly passage through silty twists and turns, with the blood roaring in our ears and pulses hammering.’
    • ‘The waitress who served you drinks the night before is probably the same person you'll see skiing a gnarly line the next day.’
    • ‘If we're going to do well in the increasingly gnarly global economy we need to get started with reform of higher education now.’
    • ‘Your guides will have familiarized themselves with the river from a floatplane 200 feet above, so exercise patience when they shepherd you to the bank while scouting gnarly rapids.’
    • ‘One of only a handful of female big-wave surfers, Gerhardt joined the ranks of some 50 men who conquered Mavericks' gnarly 25-foot waves.’
    • ‘It's almost as if it wants to shoulder some of the responsibility for the gnarly places it is taking you to.’
    • ‘If you're kayaking and you can't ID that gnarly rock on your right and then quickly shift to the waterfall straight ahead, your system becomes disoriented and you might miss the safest line through Class V rapids.’
    • ‘But it's almost too gnarly for people to really get into.’
    • ‘In the meantime, things will get gnarly here on Earth Island.’
    dangerous, fraught with danger, hazardous, risky, unsafe, treacherous
    1. 2.1Unpleasant or unattractive.
      • ‘train stations can be pretty gnarly places’
      • ‘Yep, we have rolling blackouts, gnarly gas prices - over two bucks a gallon - and it's really not even sunny right now, either.’
      • ‘Beeswax melts at a higher temperature than something like paraffin and you could actually give yourself some gnarly blisters this way.’
      • ‘I'll trade in my sandals, shorts and sunnies for a hip flask of brandy and a gnarly old jacket which can't quite keep the wind out.’
      • ‘If an exquisite cantaloupe costs $20, why pay even more for the gnarly organic version?’
      • ‘OK, you probably think that whenever you've got a gnarly zit or your hair is frizz-city, everybody is as horrified as you are.’
      • ‘Cramps, of course, can be uncomfortable and somewhat gnarly.’
      • ‘I've never seen someone so gnarly get so much attention from so many women.’
      • ‘‘You're supposed to be gnarly rockers, you're not supposed to sing happy birthday’ he mocks, but secretly you know he's pleased.’
      • ‘Paterson had a penchant for Woodbines and putting gnarly blood red nails into food mixes with scant regard for hygiene.’
      • ‘Another, who is in a five-year relationship, burns with embarrassment if she finds her feet sticking out of the covers when they're in bed together, because she thinks they're gnarly.’
      • ‘Oh, gentle reader, that would be the aforementioned Milo, screaming, held upside down with his head in the toilet receiving his twice monthly swirly from some gnarly looking bullies.’
      • ‘Fifteen gnarly stitches later, Sandler was up and out of the hospital, but couldn't go in the water for the rest of the trip.’
      • ‘Even more gnarly - your older crew badmouths, rips on or even physically threatens your younger girls.’
    2. 2.2Very good; excellent.
      • ‘I hope you have a wicked and totally gnarly day!’


Mid 19th century from gnarl + -y. gnarly (sense 2) was originally surfers' slang, perhaps from the appearance of rough sea.