When Americans read the news today, oh boy, many of them searched for a word to describe how they felt. Kory Stamper of Merriam-Webster reported the top lookups at the online dictionary site were bigot, fascism, concede, xenophobe, trump, misogyny, and deplorable. As for me, “horrified” and “devastated” came to mind.

I encountered another alternative in a tweet by the American writer Ben Greenman:


Americans tend to think of “gutted” as meaning “eviscerated.” As blogger Lynne Murphy noted when she wrote about the word in 2009, the Brits have recently adopted a metaphorical sense. The  OED reports it originated as prison slang and defines it as: “bitterly disappointed; devastated, shattered; utterly fed up.” The dictionary’s first citation is a 1984 entry in Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Contemporary Slang and the first use in the wild is from a 1987 article in the English newspaper The Independent: “We are a..strong family, but we are gutted by Shani’s death.

All subsequent citations are from British sources. But “gutted” so perfectly fits the mood of so many here that I think Greenman is merely the harbinger of a U.S. boom.

22 thoughts on ““Gutted”

  1. “Gutted” means eviscerated here too – one guts a fish, for example. I think it’s used here to mean ‘feeling as though you’ve just been punched in the gut’ or, more extremely ‘feeling as though you’ve been eviscerated’ – alluding to the moment when that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach actually feels a bit more violent than usual.

    And yes, it’s good word for our household this week, too.

  2. Yes, it’s commonly used in football, as is ‘sick as a parrot’, which could also be used to describe the effect of last week’s events.

  3. I was astonished at the enormous publicity the U.S. presidential election got in the U.K. and! its still going on! So it was a democratic election, right? and people were gutted?
    I was quite amused at the number of BBC journalists broadcasting from the U.S. who used the expression “Get-Go,” when they meant “from the outset.”
    A NOOA? I’ve seen it used in a few publications in the U.K. since!

  4. Most Brits are heartily sick of year-long US election campaigns long before they’re over, but like everywhere else we’re force fed them like geese destined for pate.
    Until very recently British election campaigns were mercifully short, but then in came the Fixed Term Parliament Act, removing the prerogative of a Prime Minister’s right to call a snap election. Needless to say, campaigns are now longer than before.

    1. Just for interest, I asked a few people (in the U.K.) their opinions about the U.S. elections and was interested to note how little they actually knew about the electoral college system. I was gutted to find that none of the people I asked knew the names of the prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

  5. Its funny how different imagery attaches itself to words. To me, gutted is like being on the receiving end of a strong and direct punch to the solar plexus that knocks the wind out of your sails, or to be more precise, lungs. The word is only saved for the very extreme end of the severely disappointed or upset scale.

  6. Spotted in NYT yesterday –

    He’s “gutted” by the PGA move, a person close to the White House says.

    since it’s in quotes it suggests that it’s a verbatim report from the White House. Maybe Trump has been talking to Farage too much ?

  7. Pingback: “Gutting”

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