Word of the Day



extremely surprised

Origin and usage

Written evidence for the adjective gobsmacked dates as far back as the 1930s, although it has a much longer history as spoken slang. The term is a compound of the words ‘gob’ and ‘smack’. The word ‘gob’ comes from the Irish and Socttish Gaelic word ‘gob’, meaning ‘mouth’ or ‘beak’, which dates back at least to the 16th century.


The word gobsmacked is a slang term that is generally defined as experiencing a feeling of intense surprise, such as the kind of shock you would feel if you were suddenly hit in the face. The action of clapping a hand to your mouth as a reaction to a surprising event is a less violent interpretation of the word gobsmacked. Generally, gobsmacked refers to something so shocking that it leaves you utterly speechless.

Although written examples of the word gobsmacked date from only the last eighty years or so, it is highly likely that the word was used in spoken language before that time. The word comes from the borderlands between northern England and southern Scotland. It was later popularized by television dramas which were set in those areas, such as Boys from the Blackstuff and Coronation Street. These programmes grew to attract sizeable mainstream followings, introducing the word gobsmacked into the wider world where it was then picked up by newspapers and other media.


“I’m so amazed that only the Malderbury dialect can express my condition: ‘I’m properly gob-smacked’.”

(Jack Reynolds)

“You cannot be an actor like I am and not have been in some of the worst movies like I have. But I stand before you deeply honoured, mighty grateful and just plain gobsmacked.”

(James Earl Jones)


surprised, shocked, astonished

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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  • Incorrect source. “Gob” is the Irish word for “beak” and is often used as a slang word for “mouth.” An example appears in the song “Finnegan’s Wake.” — “Hold your gob,” says Paddy McGee..—

  • Thank you for pointing this out, Tom. You are right of course and I have corrected the post accordingly.

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