from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An awkward, loutish person; an oaf.
  • intransitive v. To stare or gape stupidly. See Synonyms at gaze.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a cuckoo
  • n. a fool
  • n. a simpleton, stupid or clumsy person.
  • v. To stare or gape stupidly
  • v. To stare conspicuously.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cuckoo.
  • n. A simpleton; a booby; a gawky.
  • intransitive v. To act like a gawky.
  • intransitive v. To stare with empty-minded fascination; to stare stupidly; to gape; -- usually used with at.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A cuckoo. [Scotch and North. Eng.] — 2. A stupid, awkward fellow; a fool; a simpleton; a booby. Also gawky.
  • Foolish.
  • To act like a gawk; go about awkwardly; look like a fool.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an awkward stupid person
  • v. look with amazement; look stupidly


Perhaps alteration (influenced by gawk hand, left hand) of obsolete gaw, to gape, from Middle English gawen, from Old Norse , to heed.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From a variant of gowk, from Middle English gowke, from Old Norse gaukr ("cuckoo"), from Proto-Germanic *gaukaz (“cuckoo”). Cognate with Danish gøg, Swedish gök, German Gauch, Old English ġēac. More at yeke. (Wiktionary)
A Middle-Appalachian Americanism, since late 1800s, possibly misconstruing French "gauche," and leading to use of adj gawky for a person or process that is uncoordinated or awkward. (Wiktionary)
Perhaps from Old Norse  ("to heed"). (Wiktionary)


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  • Ebenezer and the farmer, gawking up, saw the tree descending on them and they were petrified with terror. Both realized they would rather not die at this particular time.

    - William Steig, Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride

    September 29, 2008