Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

awful

play
adjective aw·ful \ˈȯ-fəl\

Simple Definition of awful

  • : extremely bad or unpleasant

  • : causing feelings of fear and wonder

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of awful

  1. 1 :  inspiring awe

  2. 2 :  filled with awe: as a obsolete :  afraid, terrified b :  deeply respectful or reverential

  3. 3 :  extremely disagreeable or objectionable <awful food>

  4. 4 :  exceedingly great —used as an intensive <an awful lot of money>

awfullyplay \ˈȯ-fə-lē, especially as adv of adjective senses 3 & 4 -flē\ adverb
awfulnessplay \-fəl-nəs\ noun

Usage Discussion of awful

Many grammarians take issue with the senses of awful and awfully that do not convey the etymological connection with awe. However, senses 3 and 4 of the adjective were used in speech and casual writing by the late 18th century <it is an awful while since you have heard from me — John Keats (letter)> <there was an awful crowd — Sir Walter Scott (letter)> <this is an awful thing to say to oil painters — William Blake>. Adverbial use of awful as an intensifier began to appear in print in the early 19th century, as did the senses of awfully corresponding to senses 3 and 4 of the adjective. Both adverbs remain in widespread use <a sad state of affairs and awful tough on art — H. L. Mencken> <the awfully rich young American — Henry James> <decided to play it so awfully safe — A. M. Schlesinger b1917>.

Examples of awful in a sentence

  1. They heard the most awful sounds.

  2. Awful things began to happen.

  3. He has some awful disease.

  4. That joke is just awful.

  5. That's an awful thing to say.

  6. Who painted the house that awful color?

  7. The mountains have an awful majesty.



13th Century

First Known Use of awful

13th century

Rhymes with awful


2

awful

adverb aw·ful

Simple Definition of awful

  • : very or extremely

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of awful

  1. :  very, extremely <awful tired>

Examples of awful in a sentence

  1. We haven't heard from him in an awful long time.

  2. You've come an awful long way.



1818

First Known Use of awful

1818



AWFUL Defined for Kids

1

awful

play
adjective aw·ful \ˈȯ-fəl\

Definition of awful for Students

  1. 1 :  extremely bad or unpleasant <an awful cold> <Rodrick's band is REALLY awful, and I can't stand being home when they're having rehearsals. — Jeff Kinney, Wimpy Kid>

  2. 2 :  very much <We have an awful lot to do.>

  3. 3 :  causing fear or terror <an awful roar>




2

awful

play
adverb aw·ful

Definition of awful for Students

  1. :  awfully <That's an awful dangerous stunt.>





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up awful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a division or portion of a pool or whole

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image1926873504

Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?

gregarious flashy tetchy superficial
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ