\ə-ˈgast \

Definition of aghast 

: struck with terror, amazement, or horror : shocked and upset was aghast when she heard the news

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Did You Know?

If you are aghast, you might look like you've just seen a ghost, or something similarly shocking. "Aghast" traces back to a Middle English verb, gasten, meaning "to frighten." "Gasten" (which also gave us ghastly, meaning "terrible or frightening) comes from "gast," a Middle English spelling of the word ghost. "Gast" also came to be used in English as a verb meaning "to scare." That verb is now obsolete, but its spirit lives on in words spoken by the character Edmund in Shakespeare's King Lear: "gasted by the noise I made, full suddenly he fled."

Examples of aghast in a Sentence

The news left her aghast. Critics were aghast to see how awful the play was.

Recent Examples on the Web

But even Hewitt was aghast at the sheer cruelty of this and the banality of Sessions’s response to it. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Another Glimpse of State Terror in Trump’s America," 8 June 2018 Presidential historian Michael Beschloss is aghast. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Trump is right to reject Air Force One nostalgia.," 12 July 2018 Many Nigerians were aghast that something similar could happen again, especially to a president who had campaigned on the promise of defeating Boko Haram. New York Times, "A Homecoming for Nigerians Who Fled Militants. All That’s Missing Is the ‘Home.’," 10 July 2018 But ultimately, patent lawyers are simply aghast at the idea that a major area of innovative activity might be excluded from patent protection. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Why a 40-year-old SCOTUS ruling against software patents still matters today," 21 June 2018 The move, disclosed in a federal court filing, left healthcare and legal experts aghast. Michael Hiltzik,, "Trump's DOJ labels the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, placing healthcare for 133 million at risk," 8 June 2018 As Cruz later noted on Twitter, some Republicans defended Trump’s right to self-pardon (many others warned against it), and Democrats, aghast by the assertion, called the notion unconstitutional. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Ted Cruz was asked if he thinks Trump can self-pardon. It took him 18 seconds to say nothing.," 5 June 2018 Security experts were aghast that reporters were left vulnerable in a country that has shown no compunction in detaining westerners for months or years on very slight pretexts. Heather Hurlburt, Daily Intelligencer, "What Happens When You Treat Nuclear Diplomacy Like a Reality TV Show," 24 May 2018 Needless to say, the linguistic purists are aghast. The Economist, "Language activists are trying to make French gender-neutral," 17 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aghast.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of aghast

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for aghast

alteration (with h after ghastly, ghost entry 1) of Middle English agast, from past participle of agasten "to frighten, become frightened," from a-, perfective prefix + gasten "to frighten" — more at abide, gast

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

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The first known use of aghast was in the 13th century

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Kids Definition of aghast

: struck with terror, surprise, or horror The news left her aghast.

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Comments on aghast

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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