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 Late Middle English word ‘gob’ derives from the Old French word ‘gobe’, meaning ‘mouthful’ or ‘lump’, and the word ‘smack’, comes from the Middle Dutch word ‘smacken’.
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 there are only written examples of the word gobsmacked from 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 programs 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’.”
“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