Q. Besides angry and hungry, is there another common English word that ends in -gry?
There are a few English words that end in -gry, including but not limited to the following words in our dictionary:
There are at least a hundred more you can find in the Oxford English Dictionary, dialect dictionaries, gazetteers and onomasticons, but none of them are common. Some are simply hyphenated items like "dog-hungry" and "ever-angry," while others are variants like "begry" (for "beggary") and "higry pigry" (a variation of "hierapicra"). There is even a word "gry" which is an obsolete unit of measure equaling 0.008 inches.
But the reason the question comes up so frequently is because of a riddle. One version of the riddle goes,
The answer is "language," because "language" is the third word in the phrase "the English language." Two of the sentences thus have absolutely nothing to do with the question: "Think of words ending in -GRY. Angry and hungry are two of them.""Think of words ending in -GRY. Angry and hungry are two of them. There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word? The word is something that everyone uses every day. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is."
They are there only to throw you off course. What's left is the actual riddle itself: "There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word? The word is something that everyone uses every day. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is." The first two sentences are just a red herring. But many people hear or read the question and assume it is referring to the first sentence.
But that might not be the answer; that might not even be the question. In his remarkable book Wordplay, Chris Cole gives a historical account of the riddle and seven different versions of it with seven different answers.
Here is one:
The answer here is "three," which is the third word in the paragraph. The rest is just a red herring. The word one is capitalized, according to Mr. Cole, "for no apparent reason but historical accident."There are three words in the English language that end in "-gry." ONE is angry and the other is hungry. Every ONE knows what the third ONE means and what it stands for. Every ONE uses them every day. And if you listened carefully I've given you the third word. What is it?
The final word goes to author and linguist Richard Lederer (who, in his book Word Circus, likens the riddle to "an angry, hungry monster"): "The answer to the infernal question is that there is no answer, at least no satisfactory answer."
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