Number one for English language teachers

Word of the week: Gross

Type: Reference material

Try not to let Tim Bowen gross you out with his explanation of the varied meanings and origins of this disgusting word of the week.

Gross has a number of meanings and its origins lie in a Latin word meaning ‘large’. This sense of the word has largely died out apart from in expressions such as gross misconduct, gross indecency, gross mismanagement, and gross negligence, where it means ‘extremely bad’ and may also have connotations of immorality for some people. It can also mean ‘complete’ or ‘blatant’, as in ‘a gross misrepresentation’ or ‘a gross distortion of the truth’.

Another meaning of gross is ‘total’, as in gross income or gross profits. This is taken to mean the total amount before deductions (such as taxes) have been made. With the arrival of decimalization in the UK, the use of gross to mean 144 (derived from the French for ‘large dozen’) is now rarely heard.

Perhaps the most widespread use of gross in everyday spoken English is to mean ‘extremely unpleasant’ as in ‘Jason was sick on the stairs. It was really gross’. This use has also spawned a related phrasal verb to gross out, which means ‘to disgust’, as in ‘That movie really grossed me out. I had to walk out.’

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