“Gloat” does not mean anything like what I thought it meant. “Gloat” is to gaze – askance, furtively, amourously, admiringly, in its obscure meanings, which predate the current one. Here we are now:
To gaze with intense or passionate satisfaction (usually implying a lustful, avaricious or malignant pleasure). Now almost exclusively to gloat on, upon, or over : to feast one’s eyes upon, to contemplate, think of, or dwell upon with fierce or unholy joy.
The first use of it is given from Clarissa, which perfectly illustrates the creepiness factor. This third sense has something to do in its origins with “glut”. It comes from German, Swedish, and Old Norse words for “glare”, “peep”, and – get this – “grin”.
Now, I have always thought that “gloat” is like “boast” – something one does with words, not eyes, but definitely related to avariciousness and thus to pride. Tolkien used it in this way in the quotation under consideration:
Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!’ he gloated. ‘My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!’
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us something to hold on to:
to look or glance admiringly or amorously… (2) to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight.
and M-W presents as the primary, easy-to-grok definition:
to show in an improper or selfish way that you are happy with your own success or another person’s failure
Now that includes verbal action such as boasting, which is clearly what Smaug does.
Great elephants, but I love this project!
“gloat.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 July 2015.
“gloat, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.