Intermediate+ Word of the Day: gripe

gripe (verb, noun) /graɪp/ LISTEN

Gripes are really unpleasant.

To gripe means ‘to complain constantly about something’ and, in US English, also ‘to annoy or irritate.’ As a noun, a gripe is an annoyance or complaint. Gripes, usually in the plural, is spasmodic pain in the intestines.

Example sentences

  • You should quit your job; you're always griping about it!
  • There is something about that guy that gripes me.
  • My gripe with Kate is that she does hardly any work, but she sucks up to the boss and takes credit for what everyone else does.
  • Suzanne's husband listened patiently to all her gripes about her day at work.
  • Larry could feel his gripes getting worse and ran to the bathroom.

In pop culture

We all gripe about something, but maybe we should try to gripe less and be more positive. That’s the subject of this country music song, released by Jerry Reed in 1973, called “I’m Gonna Write a Song.”

Listen for the lyric, “Folks sit around with their face in a frown and they gripe about the way things are.”

Additional information

Related to irritation, to gripe, often used in the passive, also means ‘to suffer pain in the stomach.’ However, this sense is not used much anymore. Example: “The partygoers had eaten and drunk too much and were griped.”

Did you know?

Gripe can also mean ‘to grip or grasp’ or, as a noun, ‘an act of gripping or grasping,’ but these senses are now rare. As a nautical term, gripes are lashings formed by ropes put together to secure a boat on the deck of a larger ship. Their name comes from the old meaning of gripe as ‘to grip or grasp.’

Other forms

griper (noun), griping (noun), griping (adjective)


Gripe dates back to around the year 1200, when the Old English verb grīpan, and later the Middle English verb gripen, meant ‘to clutch or seize something firmly.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic verb gripan, and further back to the Proto-Indo-European root ghreib- (to grip). It is related to the Old Saxon gripan, the Old Norse gripa, the Dutch grijpen, the Gothic greipan, the Old High German grifan, the Lithuanian griebiu, all of which mean ‘to seize.’ It is, in fact, also closely related to the English word grip, which comes from the Old English verb grippan, because these two verbs (grīpan and grippan), already similar in meaning, later merged. The noun comes from the verb, and dates back to the late 14th century, with the original meaning (a firm grasp or clutch). The original meaning is rarely used today, but it is the origin of the figurative senses we know. The senses related to a stomach ache appeared in the 16th century as both a verb and a noun, and are related to the idea of something gripping your intestines very tightly. The meaning related to a complaint is from the 1930s, and is a figurative sense of the previous figurative sense; in other words, something bothers you and figuratively gives you a stomach ache.

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