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gleek v. to squirt liquid (including saliva) through the teeth or from under the tongue; less commonly, squirting saliva directly from the saliva glands or expelling liquid through the sinuses. Editorial Note: This is not the same as the Shakespearean gleek which means ‘to trick; to make a gibe or jest (at a person).’ There is a similar word, gleet, ‘to discharge pus (from the body); to ooze,’ but it is not in current usage and there appears to be no provable connection with gleek. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  • Hi, first time visitor/poster.  Was led to your site by the Slate article on the words of the year.  I did some quick look-ups on the recent words list, and was pleased to see “gleek,” one of my favorites.

    I have a note of etymology about this word that may or may not pan out.  “Gleek” is also the name of the blue space monkey from a 1977-1978 Superfriends cartoon on ABC, who had a penchant, when excited, to spout monkey-spit from his tongue, which is where I’d always understood the term to come from, as did my peers.

    The author of Gleek.net feels rather strongly about the word, preferring its Shakespearean roots, but I’m afraid I have to differ with his view.  However, he makes a point about the word’s similarity to “gleet,” but I’m afraid he’s got, er, the wrong end of the stick with that one.

    If I can find on the internet any stills of this xenosimian expectorance—which, I assure you, as a 7 or 8 year old filled me with delight—I’ll happily link them, if you like.

  • if you look “gleek” up in the dictionary the meaning is almost always 1) a card game and 2) to gibe, to jest, to spend time idly. i was given the name gleek by a friend of mine, goink, about 7 years ago and then it was a name mainly used for the blue monkey on superfriends. such as the english language goes, though, there can be many meanings to one word. i use gleek in the jest/gibe sense otherwise my site would make no sense! and i think that it’s funny that samael thinks i’m a man 🙂 hhmmm.. i’m definitely female.

  • Yep, there are many words with multiple definitions, though I concentrate here only on those meanings that are undocumented or under-documented, meaning that they either do not appear in dictionaries (or in most mainstream dictionaries), or else they require some kind of elaboration to explain the further development of an existing meaning.

  • Gleek18:  I stand gender-corrected.  🙂  I was excited to find your site and read a few tidbits (clearly not your bio), but nothing particularly gender-revealing.  I started that post off with “the author” since I wasn’t sure, but lapsed unconsciously into the “genderless he/him.” My apologies!

    I quite suspect that the monkey was originally given the name based the old Shakespearean definition, but I maintain the subsequent (and socially embarrassing) saliva-squirting activity was named after Gleek-the-spacemonkey.  I was 18 in 1988, the first refernce Grant has documented of this use of the word, which would be about right, as those who grew up watching Superfriends in the 1970’s would start to have their thoughts seen in mass-media.  I didn’t actually hear about the word in this context until 1993-1994, though I was painfully aware of the act long before that.  It was nice to have a name for it.

    Heh:  “spacemonkey.”

  • yes, i see the connection between the spitting and the space monkey (heh) now. when i was in high school, i always heard people refer to the spitting as gleet (maybe it was a midwestern thing? or maybe my hearing was bad?) so it wasn’t until after i had established myself as gleek that i found out about the alternate reading. oh well, i like the word regardless of its many meanings. it’s short and has a nice ring. ever play the card game called gleek? i see it referenced on google but have never tried. anyway, maybe i will and write it up in my blog. thanks! doubletongued is a great site by the way.. going into my del.icio.us collection for sure.

  • Gleek is right. Gleek is awesome. i can gleek all the time. my brother and i gleek at one another at the dinner table. its quite amazing. sometimes i can get a good 5 or 6 feet with my gleek. if anyone wish’s to learn how to Gleek feel free to ask. your a geek if you cant Gleek!

  • heh i can gleek. i dont have that stretchy thing under my tounge. When i drink soda you should see it spray, its pretty cool.

  • This may sound impossible, but I was using this word at least by the mid-1970s.  As far as my younger sister (born 1967) and I can remember (I was born 1963), we made this word to describe the act of shooting saliva out from the salivary gland under the tongue.  I discovered this skill quite by accident as a very young boy and then honed my skill so that I could do it at will and with great accuracy.  I was also able to teach my sister and a few of my cousins how to do it.  I was quite shocked to learn that this thing had spread and that our word, “gleek,” had become common jargon.

  • It is possible that your family used this word first, but without independent corroboration (preferably in writing contemporary with your dates—maybe something printed in a yearbook or school newspaper) and without a chain of evidence, it is impossible to prove or disprove. More likely (as shown time and time again when researching words) is that the term already had some currency among young people at the time and you and your sister picked it up from other kids without realizing it. It is almost always—very nearly 100 percent—impossible to trace the true origins of slang, especially that which is common among children and teens. FYI, the 1988 date given above is merely a stab at an early date: I would not be surprised that the term dates well into the 1960s or earlier.

  • In response to Mr. Barret, it is entirely possible that we heard this word first from someone else.  However, I am certain that no one taught me how to gleek and, until I taught my younger relatives, I knew no one else who could gleek.  As for corroboration, I doubt that I have anything in writing to prove that my family created this word.  But there are at least a dozen people who could state that I was the first person they ever knew who could gleek; and this list includes my mother (who I gleeked upon occasion much to her displeasure).

  • There is no written or printed evidence.

    As a studious 7th grader, I was interested in words and slang, in particular due to my fascination with the game “Scrabble” (which accepts slang terms as true words), and my interest in winning the school spelling bee (I finished 3rd that year, losing on the word “caliope”, which I spelled with 2 “L’s”).  I began thinking about how words begin, and whether or not I might be able to invent a word myself.

    My friend Rick LaGrandeur had a habit of spitting on me using his sublingual glands, which was quite annoying. I was never able to do it myself. I asked a number of people if there was a term for this, but could not come up with one. 

    I thought to myself, “Let’s see if I can invent a word for this and spread it around the school.” I couldn’t come up with a great word on my own, but I did like the word “gleek.” I knew that it was the superfriends monkey, and for that reason, I feared it wouldn’t catch on, or that people would misunderstand the term. (By the way, the monkey never spat or gleeked on anybody).

    Taking my cue, Rick began running around school saying “GleekGleek” (imitating the monkey), and then gleeking on people. Others soon picked it up, and eventually every 7th grade boy was doing it, always preceded by the “gleekgleek.”

    I was pleased that I had personally invented a word that everyone in school was using. My experiment worked! I tracked use of the word throughout Kitsap county for a while, and both Rick and I were fascinated how the term spread.

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss this story, or my memory of events. Prove to me that the term was in print before 1986, and I will retract my story.

  • As a point of reference, the 1977 season of SuperFriends first introduced Zan, Jayna, and Gleek.

    I’m not saying Brett isn’t correct, but that’s nearly 10 years between the Gleek’s introduction and when he claims to have coined it.  It’s possible that others may have used it before this time as well.

    P.S. The monkey never deliberately spit on anyone, but he has been depicted with moisture issuing from between his buck teeth, especially when excited.

  • OK, I’m not saying I invented the word “gleek.”

    I’m saying I was the first to use it as a verb, and Rick LaGrandeur was the first to “gleek” on anybody, namely me.

    I lifted the word out of the Superfriends cartoon and into general usage as a verb at my school. I was later amazed to find it spread to other schools in my county.


  • I coined the term “gleek” in 1986 at Junior high school in Poulsbo, Washington. There was an epidemic of such spitting at my school that year, and I set about to come up with a name for it.

    I actually thought of using several different words until I hit upon “gleek”, which I co opted from the superfriends monkey. I had no idea it was a term used in Shakespeare.

    I deliberately sought to spread use of the word throughout the school, and on basketball team trips to other schools as well. Within a few months, I noticed that it was being used in every junior high school in Kitsap county.

    I guarantee you will not see use of this term in print before 1986.

  • I can’t believe I found your conversation!! I discovered “gleeking” (the action, not the word) in the 70s purely by accident. I’m female, btw. Long periods go by and I forget about it, but it ocassionally happens sort of unintentionally. Today i was thinking it could be (don’t laugh) some kind of unhealthy mechanism and so I decided to google. You see, all these years I’ve never run across anyone who could do it (not that I asked people). Maybe I just ran with the wrong crowd… or was too old by that time. Anyway, I typed in “squirt, under, tongue” and up you all came. Thanks for legitimizing a lifelong mystery…

  • I was first introduced to the word ‘gleek’ on myspace.com, and my reaction was ‘What’s that?’, so I googled it. In 1988 I was around the 12-14 yr old age. I always remember the boys calling it ‘lurching’. Disgusting habit, but intriguing just the same, can’t deny I tried it, but was never successful.

  • There is a characteristically fantastic discussion of gleek, and other forgotten parlor games, in Ronald Firbank’s 1919 novel Valmouth. “No one remembers cribbage now, or gleek, or bi-ribi. . .No, nor ombre. . or lansquenet. . .or spadille. . .or brelan. . .”

    Of course, all the principal characters in this novel are already well over one hundred years old. Gleek is described as a simple game, which they play for “modest points.”


  • My older brother taught me how to gleek on long roadtrips in the car when we were young (in the 70s). No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to teach this talent to anyone else. And believe me, my kids really *want* to know! I can gleek on command, and sometimes do it without even thinking.

  • One usage which no-one’s mentioned yet is “A coquettish glance”.  This is listed as “rare” in my 1975 edition of the Concise OED.

  • How to: The best way to start out is try cranberry juice or something that is very tart (I ate lingonberries yesterday and it was a gleek fest, I couldn’t help myself) – whatever it takes to get the juices flowing. 

    But you roll your tonge tip down under and press against (cover) the salivary gland (where the saliva shoots out of).  Then when you can’t take it any more, release your tongue up – creating a clear shot and… let ‘er rip! 

    Once you get good at it you can do it without the tongue trick or any tart/sour food/drink. 

    I can gleek up a storm just *thinking* about cranberries or thinking about nothing at all – but for the big bursts some actual real tart stuff is good – if you’re in a contest or something. 

    We were doing it in high school in Rhode Island in ‘89 that’s the earliest I remember personally.  I think that’s when it was really catching on big time so the guy from Washington would be about on the right time schedule considering it was all word-of-mouth back then. 

    Gleeking is great because if you do it to people who don’t know how or have never seen it the combo expression of bewilderment disgust and anger on their face is damn near priceless.

  • I know this is a completely old discussion…but I googled “Water spraying from mouth” after I discovered today that my 18 month old son is doing it. Completely unintentional of course but I had never seen or heard of anything like it before…I really hope he is able to control it in later years…it could become rather embarrassing.

  • I saw Peyton Manning say that one of his talents was Gleeking. I was shocked to discover how many people know that term because I thought it was only a very regional term that my friends and I created. I’m not taking credit for it because someone else probably coined it Gleeking around the same time, but its origins definitely have to be from the Superfriends Space Monkey habit of hurling spit from under his tongue. It was 1978 when my fellow 1st grade friend yawned and accidentally emitted a stream of saliva from under his tongue right into my eye. I wanted to get back at him so I practiced in front of the mirror for hours (back in those days we actually didn’t have much to do other than watch cartoons when we got home and then Three’s Company at nite). Well I finally honed the skill and got him good one day right in the mouth. I told him ‘I Gleeked’ on you, in honor of the humorous Blue Monkey who had the same talent. Gleeking then spread like wildfire at our Elementary School. I remember being a little hellion doing it to unsuspecting victims at church in front of me, and grinning at their ‘Is there a Ceiling Leak’ response…. Wow. Of course, once we matured, Gleeking was not cool. I do still amuse myself occasionally at how well I can do it to my young son.

    Anyways, my friends and I are not solely taking credit for creating that term. Someone else probably simultaneously thought of calling it the same thing. But its gotta originate from the Space Monkey in the late 70s, because its clear that he was the inspiration.

Further reading

Hair on Your Tongue (episode #1517)

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

Space Cadet (episode #1514)

We have books for language-lovers and recommendations for history buffs. • How did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves the Boy Scouts, a baby, a craft project, and a city council meeting. • Instead of reversing...