Etymology
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gruesome (adj.)

1560s, with -some (1) + grue, from Middle English gruen "feel horror, shudder" (c. 1300); not recorded in Old English or Norse, possibly from Middle Dutch gruwen or Middle Low German gruwen "shudder with fear" (compare German grausam "cruel"), or from a Scandinavian source (such as Danish grusom "cruel," grue "to dread," though others hold that these are Low German loan-words). One of the many Scottish words popularized in England by Scott's novels. Related: Gruesomely; gruesomeness.

updated on April 24, 2015

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Definitions of gruesome from WordNet

gruesome (adj.)
shockingly repellent; inspiring horror;
gruesome evidence of human sacrifice
Synonyms: ghastly / grim / grisly / macabre / sick
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.