ghastly vs grisly what difference

what is difference between ghastly and grisly



From a conflation of a derivation of Old English gǣstan (to torment, frighten) with the suffix -lic, and ghostly (which was also spelt “gastlich” in Middle English). Equivalent to ghast/gast + -ly. Spelling with ‘gh’ developed 16th century due to the conflation.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈɡɑːs(t).li/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈɡæs(t).li/


ghastly (comparative ghastlier, superlative ghastliest)

  1. Like a ghost in appearance; death-like; pale; pallid; dismal.
    • 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
      Each turned his face with a ghastly pang.
  2. Horrifyingly shocking.
  3. Extremely bad.


  • (sickly pale): See also Thesaurus:pallid
  • (horrifyingly shocking): lurid



ghastly (not comparable)

  1. In a ghastly manner.
    • 1921, William Dudley Pelley, The Fog: A Novel, page 196:
      Johnathan’s lips moved ghastly before his voice would come. “So I’m crazy, am I? And if I choose to murder you, what would you do?”



  • (Received Pronunciation, General American) IPA(key): /ˈɡɹɪzli/
  • Homophone: grizzly
  • Hyphenation: gris‧ly

Etymology 1

From Middle English grisely, grysly, grissliȝ, griselich, grislich, from Old English grisliċ (grisly, horrible; dreadful, horrid), from grīsan (to shudder with horror; to tremble, to be terrified; to make tremble, to terrify; to agrise, grise) (unattested but implied in āgrīsan) + -lic (suffix forming adjectives meaning ‘characteristic of, pertaining to’).

The word may also be an aphetic form of Old English ongrislic, agrisenliċ, the past participle of agrīsan (to agrise).

Compare Danish grusom, Swedish gräslig, Middle Dutch grezelijc (modern Dutch griezelig), Middle High German grisenlich (modern German grässlich, grausen).


grisly (comparative grislier, superlative grisliest)

  1. Horrifyingly repellent; gruesome, terrifying.
    Synonyms: (obsolete) grisy, gristly, (misspellings) grizzly; see also Thesaurus:frightening
  2. Misspelling of gristly.
  3. Misspelling of grizzly.
Usage notes

Not to be confused with gristly or grizzly.

Alternative forms
  • griesly, grislie (obsolete)
Derived terms
  • grislily
  • grisliness
  • ungrisly
Related terms
  • grise

Etymology 2

From grisle (horror, terror) +‎ -ly; compare Middle Dutch griselike, Middle Low German grislike.


grisly (comparative more grisly, superlative most grisly)

  1. (obsolete) In a horrible or terrible manner; in a terrifying way.
  • grimly
  • horribly
  • terribly


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