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adjective aw·ful \ˈȯ-fəl\

Simple Definition of awful

  • : extremely bad or unpleasant

  • : causing feelings of fear and wonder

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>

aw·ful·lyplay \ˈȯ-fə-lē, especially as adv of adjective senses 3 & 4 -flē\ adverb
aw·ful·nessplay \-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

  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



adverb aw·ful

Simple Definition of awful

  • : very or extremely

Full Definition of awful

  1. :  very, extremely <awful tired>

Examples of awful

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

  2. You've come an awful long way.


First Known Use of awful


AWFULLY Defined for Kids


adverb aw·ful·ly \ˈȯ-flē, especially for 2 -fə-lē\

Definition of awfully

  1. 1 :  to a very great degree :  very <After the race I was awfully tired.>

  2. 2 :  in a disagreeable or unpleasant manner <He sings awfully.>

Seen and Heard

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February 6, 2016

an official order, decree, or edict

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