- Gnarled; misshapen.
- Slang a. Characterized by violent motion; powerful or turbulent: gnarly waves.b. Unpleasant or difficult.c. Remarkable; outstanding.
(comparative gnarlier, superlative gnarliest)
- having or characterized by gnarls; gnarled
- On the right of the station were two gnarly cottonwood trees... — Mark Goodwin, Last Words
- (US slang) dangerous
- When the swell struck, the North Shore got gnarly, and the wise ones hit the outer islands where the energy was just as juicy but a bit more organized. — Surfer Magazine, March 1977
- (US slang) unpleasant, awful, ugly
- We're not talking about a lame chick and a gnarly guy. We're talking about a couple of far-out dudes. — D. Jenkins, Baja Oklahoma
- (slang) excellent, attractive
- "There ain't nothing gnarlier (apparently) than slapping on some brightly coloured sunblock to ward off the blinding spectre of dangerous, snow-reflected sunlight. — Glasgow Sunday Herald, 16 January 2000
- (US slang) Of music or a sound, harsh
- "[She] displays the same love of gnarly fuzztones and shout-it-out-loud choruses that began back in her daze [sic] with local all-girl rockers the Runaways. — Los Angeles Times, 12 October 1986
Note the contradictory senses of “good” and “bad”. Meaning varies by community and context, and may be indicated by extra-verbal cues, such as tone of voice. Sense of “good” particularly associated with surf culture, to the point of being somewhat clichéd, as in “gnarly wave, dude!”.
Variant of gnarled
- knotty and twisted, as the trunk of an old tree
- roughened, hardened, sinewy, etc., as hands that do rough work
Origin of gnarledultimately ; from Middle English knorre, a knot: see knur