We often use the word “gall” in phrases such as “I can’t believe she has the gall to…” or “that really galls me.” But what exactly does “gall” mean?
In its first sense, gall is a synonym for “bile.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, however, these days “gall” applies only to animals. Either way, gall (or bile) is a bitter-tasting, yellowish substance that aids in the digestion of fat. Because of its taste, gall can also be used to refer to anything that is bitter or severe.
The word gall comes from Old English gealla (meaning bile), a cognate of Greek kholē. It may also come from Old English geolo (yellow), a possible reference to bile’s color. The two roots may, in fact, be related.
The last 30 years of the 19th century in the United States (the “Gilded Age”) saw a huge growth of industry and wealth. But that growth was fueled by economic and political corruption. No one represented both the highs and the lows of the Gilded Age better than Rockefeller and Standard Oil. And not even Rockefeller could predict that his worse nemesis would turn out to be not his competitors, but a woman — and one born in a log home .