General English

Cars & Driving

  • noun a thick, viscous lubricant for machinery made from oil and metallic soaps
  • verb to lubricate or coat with grease


  • noun thick soft animal fat, e.g. from cooked meat
  • verb to put a coating of fat or oil on the surface of a container, e.g. a baking tin, to prevent food sticking to it


  • noun money. An underworld term of the early 20th century, adopted by beatniks among others and, more recently, by teenagers. From the notion of greasing the wheels of commerce, or money as a social lubricant.
  • verb to kill. The word appears to have had the specific meaning of shoot (probably inspired by ‘grease-gun’) until the 1970s when it acquired its additional and more general sense.


  • (written as Grease)
    A musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. The show opened in Chicago in 1971but was radically rewritten before its Broadway debut a year later. Despite mixedreviews, it would become one of Broadway's longest running musicals, logging up a then-record 3388 performances before closing in 1980. It also enjoyed an international success, being known as Glease in Tokyo, Vaselina in Mexico, and Brilliantine in Paris. The original songs include 'Summer Nights','Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee', and 'Beauty School Dropout'.

    The show takes an affectionate but unsentimental look at the rock 'n' rollyouth scene of the 1950s. A reunion for Rydell High School's Class of '59prompts much reminiscing. Most prominent are memories of romances betweenthe Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies, especially that betweenDanny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski; subsequent scenes return to the late 1950s andchart Sandy's transformation from a naive teenager into a leather-clad sex bomb.The hugely successful 1978 film version, which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, introduced several new songs but sanitized much of the stage show'ssexual frankness. There have been several revivals, most of which have followedthe film rather than the original show. In 2007 leads for the new productions inboth New York and London were chosen via reality TV shows in each country.


  • noun thick oil, used to make machines run smoothly

Origin & History of “grease”

Latin crassus meant ‘solid, thick, fat’, and hence ‘gross, stupid’ (English borrowed it in this latter metaphorical sense as crass (16th c.), and it is also the source of French gras ‘fat’). On it was based the vulgar Latin derived noun *crassia ‘(melted) animal fat’, which passed into English via Old French craisse, later graisse, and Anglo-Norman gresse or grece. Old French craisse was the source of craisset ‘oil lamp’, from which English got cresset (14th c.).