grisly vs. grizzly vs. gristly

What is the difference between grisly and grizzly?

The word grisly means “gruesome; causing horror, dread, or repugnance,” as in:
  • “A series of grisly murders have shocked the small town.”
  • “I can’t believe she survived such a grisly car crash.”
The adjective grizzly is derived from the noun grizzle, which means “hair that is gray or partly gray.” One of its most common uses is in the name of the grizzly bear, so named because it has gray-tipped fur. For example:
  • “After a month in the wilderness, he came back with a grizzly beard.”
  • “In these parts of the country, you need to watch out for grizzly bears and mountain lions.”
The words grisly and grizzly are pronounced the same way: /ˈɡrɪzli/. Because of this, it is very easy to confuse their spellings. Just remember that grizzly is based off the noun grizzle, and so it is spelled with two Zs rather than an S.

What is the difference between grisly and gristly?

One last possible area of confusion comes from the word gristly, which is pronounced /ˈɡrɪsli/. Like grizzly, it is based on a noun: gristle (tough, chewy cartilage, especially when present in meat). Because its pronunciation matches the “normal” speech sound associated with the letter S (and because the T is silent), it can be easy to mistakenly use the spelling grisly. Like grizzly, it’s important to remember that gristly is derived from a noun, which is what determines its spelling.
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