One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Which English words end in ‘-gry’?
You might have heard a question which asks for the third word in English ending in -gry, along with hungry and angry. Well... there isn't one!
This 'riddle' has been in circulation for years now. Dictionary and reference departments the world over have been plagued by questions about it. It seems to have originated as a trick question, but the wording has become so garbled in subsequent transmission that it's hard to tell what was originally intended.
The most probable answer is that, in the original wording, the question was phrased something like this:
Think of words ending in -gry. 'Angry' and 'hungry' are two of them. What is the third word in the English language? You use it every day, and if you were listening carefully, I've just told you what it is.
The answer is 'language' (i.e. the third word in the phrase 'the English language').
There are several other English words ending in -gry which are listed in the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary, but they are all obsolete or obscure: none of them would find a place in dictionaries of current English. They include:
- aggry: aggry beads, according to various 19th-century writers, are coloured glass beads found buried in the ground in parts of Africa
- begry: a 15th-century spelling of beggary
- conyngry: a 17th-century spelling of the obsolete word conynger, meaning 'rabbit warren'
- gry: the name for a hundredth of an inch in a long-forgotten decimal system of measurement devised by the philosopher John Locke
- iggry: an old army slang word meaning 'hurry up', borrowed from Arabic
- meagry: a rare obsolete word meaning 'meagre-looking'
- menagry: an 18th-century spelling of menagerie
- nangry: a rare 17th-century spelling of angry
- podagry: a 17th-century spelling of podagra, a medical term for gout
- skugry: 16th-century spelling of the dialect word scuggery meaning 'secrecy'
See other Vocabulary Questions.
Take a look at: What English words end in -dous?
In this article we explore how to impress employers with a spot-on CV.