In the urban dictionary, I read

Groak : Verb. To stare silently at someone while they are eating, in the hopes that they will give you some of their food.

Always careful not to establish eye contact with potential groakers, Mark wolfed down the last of his mother's famous apple pie.

My question is about knowing if this verb is a new word, its supposed etymology and (possibly) get quotations of it in the literature.

  • 6
    if you can't find it anywhere but Urban Dictionary, it is probably not in common use. I don't recommend that you use it: I for one would have no idea what it meant. Though you never use the phrase "real word," I think the discussion at this question is relevant: english.stackexchange.com/questions/268623/…
    – herisson
    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:28
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    Wasn't that a word invention by Heinlein in A Stranger in a Strange Land?When the stranger from Mars understood how things were done or seen on Earth he groaked them - or was it grokked them?
    – rogermue
    Sep 8, 2015 at 10:16
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    @rogermue That was grok. ;-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grok
    – skymningen
    Sep 8, 2015 at 11:24
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    Yes, "grok" (with various spellings) is a fairly well-known word, at least in technical and sci-fi circles, and has been in use since the early 70s, at the latest. It is similar in pronunciation to a Dutch word with similar meaning, so I doubt that Heinlein truly "invented" it.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:28
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    @HotLicks: word similarities abound, many of them coincidental. It's not difficult to invent a word from scratch though. "Slark." There, I did it. Is there any reason to think Heinlein drew inspiration from Dutch? (edit: and as a supporting factor, look at this already-existing but independently formed duplicate for "slark": dota2.gamepedia.com/Slark)
    – herisson
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


It appears to be an old dialectal Scottish term with different spellings, now also a slang (not common) term.

  • It’s not in the OED, but it is in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang: "groak" n. also growk [20C+] (Ulster):

    • a child who sits watching others eating, in the hope of being asked to join them. [synon. Scot. groak].”

From the Dictionary of the Scots Language:

  • GROWK, v., n. Also grook, grouk, groak, groke, groach. [grʌuk, gro:k]:

  • 1. (v) To look at someone with a watchful or suspicious eye; to look longingly at something, esp. of a child or dog begging for food (Ags.4 1920; n.Ant. 1924 North. Whig (14 Jan.); Kcd., Ags., Per. 1955). †By extension: to come thoroughly awake after a sleep, sc. by focussing the eyes on surrounding objects (Dmf. 1825 Jam.).

    • Ags. 1808 Jam.: Grouk is often used, as denoting the watchfulness of a very niggardly person, who is still afraid that any of his property be given away or carried off.
    • Gall. a.1813 A. Murray Hist. Eur. Langs. (1823) I. 393: To groke, in Scotish, is to stretch for meat like a dog.
    • Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xviii.: Nathan was stanin' at the table as uswal, growk-growkin' awa' for a bit o' my tea biskit. “I dinna like growkin' bairns,” I says to Nathan.
    • Per. 1900 E.D.D.: There's the gamekeeper groakin' aboot.
  • 2. To look intently or wistfully so as to attract attention.

    • Rs. 1944 C. M. Maclean Farewell to Tharrus 79: She grooked a little, and tried to lick my chin. “Where's Laddie?” I whispered to her. She whined and ran off.


Groak by Uncommon Parlance:

  • Have you ever been enjoying a meal in your favourite eatery and suddenly got the impression that someone is looking at you? You look around and see a lonely soul, perched above their soup, a look of hope and pleading in their eyes. That, gentle reader, is a groaker. To Groak is to look longingly after some wanted object, and specifically, to longingly watch someone while they eat in the hope of being invited to join them.

  • Etymology: Unclear, Possibly Scots or Ulster Gaelic. The word is found in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang as both “groak” and “growk” It also shows its face in The Dictionary of the Scots Language.

  • 1
    The link to the Dictionary of the Scots Language is broken, so there's no way of checking the validity of the citation. But Google comes to the rescue: dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/growk
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:57
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    @Josh61 Bravo ! and thank you, this is illuminating indeed. Exactly what I needed. Sep 8, 2015 at 10:33
  • Yes, but how does one pronounce "groak" in Scottish? Often words change spelling on their way across the Atlantic based on the local relationship between sound and letter combinations. Sep 8, 2015 at 17:59
  • @CarlWitthoft In Scottish I do not know, but in English (where I was last week, at least three persons were using the verb within their conversation) it seems to be pronounced as "oak". I can add that the provider of the word himself confessed that he drew it, together with its (English) spelling, from a BBC program. Sep 17, 2015 at 1:35

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