Intermediate+ Word of the Day: gully

gully (noun, verb) /ˈgʌli/ LISTEN

Gullies are often found in mountainsides.

A gully is a small valley created by the effects of running water and that usually serves as a drainage way after prolonged heavy rains. A gutter or ditch can also be called a gully. As a verb, to gully means ‘to form such valleys or channels by the action of water.’ In Scotland, a gully is also an informal term for a large knife, especially a kitchen or butcher’s knife.

Example sentences

  • A deep gully ran down the side of the mountain.
  • A gully ran along the side of the road.
  • Heavy rains had gullied the soil.
  • Morag sliced the meat with a gully.

In pop culture

The Hully Gully is a kind of line dance that was popular in the 1960s, but actually started around 40 years earlier than that, in early twentieth-century black juke joints. You can read more about the dance and its origins here. In 1959, American doo-wop group, The Olympics, recorded a song about the dance, also called “Hully Gully.” You can see them performing it on the show Hollywood A Go-Go here:

Did you know?

In cricket, gully is the position of a fielder between the point and slips or the fielder who occupies that position. In Australian English, gully cricket is an informal game of cricket played in the street, normally with much more relaxed rules than standard cricket.


Gully, meaning ‘a channel made by running water,’ dates back to the mid-17th century. Its origin is uncertain, but some linguists believe that it is a variant of the Middle English golet, which meant ‘water channel’ as well as ‘the passage from the mouth of an animal to its stomach.’ Golet, which gave us the modern word gullet, came into English around the year 1300 from the Old French golet (‘the neck of a bottle,’ as well as ‘a gutter’ and ‘a bay or a creek’), a diminutive of gole (throat or neck). It can be traced back to the Latin gula (‘throat,’ as well as ‘appetite’) and the Proto-Indo-European root gwele- (to swallow). It is related to the Modern French gueule (throat), the Latin gluttire (to gulp down or devour) and glutto (glutton), the Old English ceole (throat), the Old Church Slavonic glutu (gullet), the Russian glot (draft or gulp), the Old Irish gelim (I devour), the Spanish gula (gluttony), and the English words gull, glutton, jowl and beagle (this dog breed’s name literally means ‘gaping throat,’ which was used figuratively to mean ‘noisy person’).

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