Gruel vs grueling

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Gruel and grueling are two words that seem related. They both stem from the same origins, but their meanings have diverged over the centuries. We will look at the definitions of the words gruel and grueling, where the terms come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Gruel is a thin, liquid food made up of a grain meal boiled in water or sometimes milk. Most often gruel consists of oatmeal, but wheat meal, rye meal, corn meal or rice meal may be used. Gruel was considered a staple of the poor for thousands of years, it is known that the Ancient Greeks mostly subsisted on a diet comprised of gruel, vegetables and salted fish. The word gruel first appears in the twelfth century, derived from the Old French word gruel which means finely ground meal.

Grueling is an adjective that describes something that is exhausting or demanding. Interestingly, the word grueling is derived from an obsolete meaning of the word gruel. In the 1800s the word gruel was used as a verb to mean to punish. It was shortened from the phrase to get one’s gruel, which meant to receive one’s punishment. Especially in the 1800s, gruel was the staple of the poor, indigent and imprisoned and not very tasty. This meaning of the word gruel is preserved in the adjective grueling. The American spelling is grueling, the British spelling is gruelling.


Flaying the Union government’s demonetisation programme, a group of Muslim Youth League (MYL) workers staged a symbolic protest near the State Bank of India (SBI) office at Mananchira on Monday by preparing rice gruel and supplying it to customers who turned up for exchanging currency notes. (The Hindu)

Iger recently told his friend, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, about the grueling vertical workouts. (Variety)

Christchurch’s Dale Finch is facing a gruelling schedule at Saturday night’s Burt Munro Challenge Speedway Spectacular at Oreti Park. (The Southland Times)