From dialectal English gaum (“understanding”) + -less (“without”), from Old Norse gaum, from Proto-Germanic *gaumaz, *gaumō (“understand”). The ‘r’ found in this spelling is a vowel-lengthening device common in non-rhotic dialects of English.
- (chiefly Britain, of a person) Lacking intelligence, sense or understanding; foolish.
- 1845 October – 1846 June, Ellis Bell [pseudonym; Emily Brontë], Wuthering Heights: A Novel, volume XXI, London: Thomas Cautley Newby, publisher, […], published December 1847, OCLC 156123328:
- Did I ever look so stupid: so gormless as Joseph calls it?
- 2007, J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 978-0-7475-9106-1:, chapter 8, The Wedding, Auntie Muriel, page 141:
- “Hmm. Made an excuse, did he? Not as gormless as he looks in press photographs, then. […]”
- 2015, Adele Abbott, Witch Is When Everything Went Crazy, page 33:
- “Don’t just stand there looking gormless. There’s plenty of work to do in the back.”