After a spirited discussion wafted over my cube wall, I decided to jump right in. The topic: whether or not a person could be “gruntled” – the opposite of being “disgruntled”. Turns out you can.


Via Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: grun·tle
Pronunciation: ‘gr&n-t&l
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): grun·tled; grun·tling /’gr&nt-li[ng], ‘gr&n-t&l-i[ng]/
Etymology: back-formation from disgruntle
: to put in a good humor

Via Straight Dope:

Dis- isn’t always used to negate; sometimes it’s an intensifier. “Gruntle” is an old dialect word meaning “to grumble.” So “disgruntled” means you’re really grumbling. There are times when I can definitely relate.


And are you gruntled yet? The “dis” of disgruntled is not the same as the “dis” of “dismayed.” It means “completely”, and so “gruntled,” just as it sounds, is an old word that means “grumbling.” Today, however, “gruntled” has found its way into dictionaries as a word in its own right. If you look at the origin, you will see that it gives “gruntled” as a back-formation from “disgruntled.” People assumed that “disgruntled” was a negative and invented the word “gruntled.” Similar back-formations add new words to the English dictionary every year. One of the most well-known as a back-formation is “edit, ” which arose because the word “editor” sounds as if it should mean “one who edits.”

So, if I’m reading all of these sources correctly, gruntle is one of those few words which can mean both one thing and the exact opposite (technically an Autoantonym, antagonym or contranym); in this case both “grumbling” as well as “satisfied”. Weird.

The truth really is stranger than fiction. And who knew that “edit” was a made up word?

4 thoughts on “Gruntled

  1. Stick-to-itiveness…

    I’ve been on both sides of the whole made-up word debate over the years. As an English major in college I took an etymology/history of the English course which really did open my eyes (and widen my vocabulary) concerning the expanding wordcount …

  2. Whelmed…

    I’ve been overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but I wondered this morning if I had (or could) be whelmed. Turns out I can (and have):
    to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely wit…

  3. We wish we’d researched the etymology of ‘Gruntled’ better before we named our site after it … we thought we were being clever! Common usage and understanding does seem to indicate that the use of Gruntled meaning ‘happy’ is the norm now .. luckily!

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