How did the word “gross” end up with so many different meanings?

English is a pervasive language. With only 26 alphabets, this language has unlimited words. And, a lot of the words of this universal language have more than one meaning. It is, in fact, quite amazing how one word can be used for so many different uses.

If we look for words with multiple meanings, we will get lost in the search. But today, let’s talk about the word we commonly use in our daily life. And, that word is ‘gross’. Even though we use this term quite commonly, most of us do not know anything about its origin. Let’s discuss that!

Normally, according to a layman, this word is used for something tacky or uncomfortable. But you may not believe that the actual origin of this word comes from its first meaning, which is “something huge”. Like something near to unlimited. This meaning is still used a lot in the field of business.

But, the original sense of big became flexible in the early days of this word.  So, in some uses, it went from big to meaning too big. And later, this sense of too big took a turn. It came to refer to the elements that made something up, and to the thing itself. For example, an obese person started to be called a gross person. Or, a very coarse fabric was called a gross fabric.

Just like that, the definition of too big led to its misconceptions. This meaning was misused in a lot of different ways. In the end, this word became equated with being generally distasteful, vulgar, or disgusting. Thus, the usual meaning we use this word for was born.

But, on the other hand, it also retained its sense of largeness without the added negative connotation. That morphed into gross being the largest measurement of the object with nothing taken away. Soon, it replaced the term net and became the most used word in the field of business.

Along with these entirely different meanings, this word also has another one. The word gross also appears to be used by the French as a term to denote an amount equal to 12 dozen.